Eliza Jane Briscoe and William Evans
Eliza Jane Briscoe was born 12 October 1818, two days after the 1818 muster of Hobart Town had closed. Eliza was the last child born to Sarah Goodwin and Benjamin Briscoe, and was christened on 9 March 1819.1 The Tasmanian Pioneer Index incorrectly records Eliza's birth year as 1813, no doubt a transcription error, and this been perpetuated by many subsequent family histories.2 Tragedy struck six months later when Eliza Jane's father left their Clarence Plains farm for the final time, to deliver a contract of meat to the Commissariat in Hobart Town. Soon after Benjamin delivered the meat, 250lbs in all, he set out on the long journey home. Sadly, while crossing the Derwent the ferry carrying him sank, drowning Benjamin, as well as Ambrose Aldridge, and John Dutton.3
Eliza Jane’s early years were spent on her father’s farm north of Orielton, before the family moved to her step-father’s grant at Jerusalem, around 1830 or so. Her mother Sarah married Mark Ashby Bunker soon after her husband’s tragic death, and by the time Eliza Jane married, she had four step-sisters, Elizabeth, Margaret, Lucy Louisa and Maria, and one step-brother, Edward Bunker. Together with her surviving Briscoe siblings, Mary Ann, George, William, and Ann Elizabeth, Eliza Jane had a total of three brothers and six sisters, born over a twenty year period between 1808 and 1828.
When she was just eighteen years old, Eliza Jane married William Evans, in the newly built courthouse in Oatlands, on July 6th, 1836. Eliza was recorded as living at Jerusalem, and William as living at Oatlands. The two witnesses were John and Mary Lamb, and James Norman performed the ceremony.4 William, a widower, was much older - around 54 years old when he married Eliza Jane. He was one of twenty-two convicts, and dozens of free settlers of that name who arrived in Van Diemen’s Land, and it took Gabriela years of painstaking research to identify which of these men Eliza Jane married. Of Welsh origin, “Evans is a patronymic surname meaning "son of Evan." The given name Evan derives from the Welsh name Ifan, a cognate of John, meaning "gracious gift of Jehovah." Within the United Kingdom, Evans is the 8th most common surname, being most common in the city of Swansea, Wales.” 5 So, unfortunately for Gabriela, the name “William Evans” was as common in Wales as the ubiquitous “John Smith” was in England.
Gabriela’s mother, another passionate historian, had always believed that William had arrived in V.D.L. as a convict, the reason Gabriela spent so much time trawling through the records of each and every convict of that name, eliminating them one by one, until she discovered her ancestor. And this was long before the simple solution to her dilemma appeared online, when a list of “Convict applications for permission to marry - covers convicts applying to marry free people or other convicts,” recorded “EVANS William, Recovery, NELSON Ellen free, Kangaroo, May 1831” on the Archives Office of Tasmania’s website. 6 Years before the Archives Office of Tasmania website had gone online, the historian Irene Schaffer had located the information that William had married Ellen Nelson, but she had not discovered which of the dozens of William Evans, convict or free, this information referred to.7
The William Evans who married Eliza Jane was described on his convict record as 35 years of age, 5 feet 2 inches tall, with sandy flaxen hair, grey eyes, and pock pitted skin. He was a farm labourer, native of Duxley, in Herefordshire, on the Welsh border. William had been convicted at Hereford Lent Assizes on the 22nd March 1819 for house breaking,8 and sentenced to death for his offence. 9 Fortunately for William, his sentence was later commuted to transportation to New South Wales for life. 10
Duxley, where William was born, is a tiny collection of farm houses in the quaintly named hamlet of Pig Street, itself part of the parish of “NORTON CANON, situated on the road from Hereford to Kington,... The village is distant 10 miles N.W. by W. of Hereford.. [in the] Hereford county court district. The population in 1861 was 334; in 1871, 317; inhabited houses, 71; families or separate occupiers, 77; area of parish, 2, 111a. 2r. 22p. Eccles Green is a hamlet distant nearly 1 mile N.; Pig Street and Calver Hill are hamlets on the W. side of the parish.” 11
But the irony in all of this is the fact that some of William’s background before 1819 was already known, even though his actual identity remained a mystery. Once again it was Irene Schaffer 12 who located the details of William’s earlier life, when she found his death notice and obituary in The Mercury newspaper of April 15th, 1874:
EVANS. – On 8th April, at Triabunna, Spring Bay, William Evans, aged 98, one of the “Nile” and “Trafalgar” heroes. An old colonist: he arrived in Tasmania in 1817, and resided until lately in the Oatlands and Bagdad districts.13
A little more detail was provided in William’s obituary, but also a number of errors, not least William’s name and age. The error that provided the greatest headache to researchers was the date given in both notices for William’s arrival in V.D.L. – 1817. Thanks to Gabriela’s research, we now know that William arrived three years later, in 1820, and we also know that he was born circa. 1785, not 1776, as his obituary suggests.
DEATH OF A TRAFALGAR HERO. – A correspondent sends us a few particulars respecting the life of the Mr. George Evans, of Triabunna, Spring Bay, whose decease is announced in our obituary column of this day. The deceased, who was 98 years old, enjoyed perfect health and was able to go about until within the last week. – He served with Nelson at the battle of Trafalgar, subsequently emigrated to Sydney, and ultimately arrived in Tasmania in 1817. For a while he did very well in the way of prospering, but having got unexpectedly involved through the scheming of others he returned to Sydney for a short time. Latterly Evans resided with his two sons at Spring Bay. Some time ago he lived in the Oatlands district, and also at Bagdad.14
If we take William’s obituary at face value, he served as a lad of 13 or so at the battle of the Nile, in 1798, and was around 19 years old at the battle of Trafalgar. Like thousands of his fellow countrymen, he was probably press-ganged into service, though his youthful entry into the Navy suggests he may he been one of the few who volunteered. A description of the practise of “press-ganging” follows:
"Founded long before the Napoleonic wars, the Impress service came into high profile during the wars with Revolutionary France. The word impress was derived from the old French word 'prest', modern 'prêt' or loan/advance, in other words, each man 'impressed' received the loan of a 'shilling' (that is he paid the 'King's shilling' to enlist) and became a '(im)prest man'. The service, also known as the Press Gang, was present in every major port in the kingdom. The service's offices were called 'Rendezvous' with a Regulating Officer in charge, and he hired local hard men as 'gangers'. These thugs would thus roam the countryside attempting to 'encourage' men aged between 18 and 55 to join the navy. No-one was safe from the gang, and often the only escape route when captured was to bribe the gang or to join it. A preferred target for the pressgang was the merchant navy, so it was not infrequent to find special hiding places on merchant vessels. Also, the return of prisoners of war from France was also seen as the perfect moment to impress crewmen, such that very often the returning POWs were turned round and pressganged even before they set foot once more on home soil. The captains of merchant vessels frequently took pity on those they were repatriating and tried to let them land in places far from the ports and the pressgangs. Hence the expression to be 'pressganged' into doing something, meaning to be forced into doing it." 15
According to the publication, “Pioneers of Burnie,” William was a Welsh guardsman - a possibility given the Welsh origins of his surname, and the fact that the Welsh guards served in the British army during the Napoleonic wars. 16 The fact that William’s obituary states he served in the naval battles of the Nile and Trafalgar doesn’t discount this possibility, as soldiers and sailors alike were enlisted to fight in those terrible battles.
It’s probable that William Evan’s description as a hero of Trafalgar honoured him in the same way that we honour our Anzacs today. As his descendant Ken Evans put it: “anyone who fought and survived must have been a hero,” 17 whatever the battle and whatever the time. The Battle of Trafalgar -
...took place at Cape Trafalgar off the French coast. There were thirty six Franco/Spanish warships and only thirty three British. The engagement began before sunset on October 21 1805 and the carnage had ended in less than twenty four hours.
Lord Nelson died in the midst of the battle, and the final human casualties were 700 French dead and half that number wounded. The British lost 218, and 670 were wounded. The battle is referred to as “the greatest turning point in British naval history”- in a sense it was the beginning of the end for Napoleon Bonaparte.
Also described as the “Holocaust of Trafalgar”, the role of marines and soldiers consisted of boarding enemy ships and engaging them in desperate hand to hand fighting with cutlass and musket. At times the decks were awash with the blood of friend and foe alike.18
After he was cashiered, William turned to the more peaceful pursuit of farming, and he was employed as a farm labourer when he was convicted in Hereford on that fateful day in 1819. Added to William’s despair when he was sentenced to transportation was the fact that he was forced to part from his wife Pamela: her fate after William’s conviction is terrible to contemplate. William had married Pamela Gwillim in Clehonger, near Hereford, just months earlier, on 11 August 1816 19 - this is the only marriage of any William Evans to any “Pamela” in Herefordshire between the years 1805 and 1819. (We know of Pamela only because William wrote in 1827 to request free-passage for his wife “Pamela Evans” to join him. His request was accepted, but it appears that Pamela had died in the meantime, as William married his first wife in VDL, Ellen Nelson, nee Murphy, as a widower.) 20
The village where Pamela and William married was even closer to Hereford than Norton Canon, where William was born, but both are in the same general area to the west of the city. “CLEHONGER is a picturesque village and parish situated on the S. bank of the river Wye, about 4 miles S.W. of Hereford..” It's likely that William was living and working on a farm in the vicinity of Clehonger when he was convicted, little more than six months after his marriage. 21
After his conviction, William was sent to London, and was transferred to the Justitia hulk at Woolwich. He embarked on the Recovery on July 20th, 1819 at 1p.m. in the afternoon. Earlier, Lieut. Marsh of the 45th Regiment, with a detachment of H.M. 46th Regiment joined the ship as guards.
On joining the Recovery at Woolwich, a considerable proportion of the convicts “laboured with dysenteric symptoms with ulceration of the mouth and tongue”, testament to the appalling conditions on the hulks. The rations the convicts were issued to the convicts were totally inadequate, overcrowding was endemic, and hygeine was non-existent.
Half of the 65 male convicts embarked that day with William were single ironed, and the rest wore irons on both ankles. Being too small, the irons pinched their ankles, and the men were unable to walk the deck for the remainder of the day. At 6.p.m. that evening they were issued with blankets, allocated a bed, and let below decks for evening muster. At 2 p.m. the next day 60 more male convicts were embarked, 23 of whom were single ironed.
By Wednesday August 4th, they were at sea, and sailing down the channel, so 42 convicts were freed of their irons, and the remainder were single ironed only. On Thursday, all of the convicts were made to wash, and shave and afterwards were issued with 1 shirt, 1 pair of trowsers and 1 guernsey frock. On 11 August William was listed as having dysentery, and was placed in the ship’s hospital. Soon after, Mr. Cunningham made a note to serve the convicts one gill of wine thrice weekly. By the time William had recovered and was discharged from hospital on August 21st., the convicts were being issued regular amounts of lemon juice with sugar, mustard, and vinegar as anti-scorbutics. Later in the voyage, which took 136 days all told, it seems that the convicts’ clothing ration had to be supplemented, due to some freshly washed shirts and trousers blowing away in the wind! The men were given canvas bread and biscuit bags to make themselves clothing in their place.
The rest of the journey seemed uneventful, other than the usual disagreements erupting between men living in close company. By November, as the long journey was nearing it’s end, the men were issued with their landing shirts and trowsers to be altered to fit: jackets and waistcoats were issued to the boys for the same reason. Next day the remainder of their landing clothes were issued, allowing the men to alter these as well if need be. On Saturday, 11 December 1819, as the ship sailed eastward through Bass’es Strait, Capt. Fotherley presented the guards with a keg of rum, and the convicts with two at dinner, in anticipation of sighting land. The very next day, just as the sun set, they were thrilled to see Cape Otway on the lee board, the continent’s southernmost point.
Turning northwards after passing the southern tip of New Holland, the ship sailed on. Blessed with fine weather as they followed the coast, the Recovery saw the Minerva, another convict transport, at three o’clock in the afternoon, not long after they passed through the Heads and entered the harbour. At 5 p.m. the Naval officer sailed out from Port Jackson to meet them, went on board and took the ship’s despatches back to the governor.Two more days sailing ensued as they passed through the harbour, and on Saturday, December 18th, the Recovery finally anchored in Sydney Cove.
The next day, being Sunday, Divine Service was held on board, and fresh beef was sent to the ship for the guards and convicts: how wonderful that must have tasted after months on salt meat rations. On Christmas Day, the prisoners were still on board, but were given the freedom of the ship. It wasn’t until December 30th, 1819, that William stepped ashore in Sydney Town. At daylight, boats came alongside to disembark the convicts, and by 5 a.m. they had all left the ship.
At 10 a.m. the prisoners were inspected by Lieut. Governor Lachlan Macquarie, where they all expressed their satisfaction with the treatment they had experienced during the passage. 22 Their welfare was a genuine concern to Governor Macquarie. “His policy of encouraging emancipists”, convicts who had “served their sentences and had reformed” was “distasteful to well-to-do free settlers”. 23 Macquarie’s enlightened policy towards the emancipists earnt him the wrath of the wealthy and influential landed class during his long tenure as governor.
The Sydney Gazette, itself run by the emancipated convict George Howe, expressed the same concern for the welfare of the new arrivals as that shown by the governor, when it reported the arrival of the Minerva and Recovery:
Yesterday arrived the “Minerva”, Captain Bell, who was here l8 months ago with male prisoners, of whom he had the happiness to lose none, with 177 male prisoners from Ireland, having lost one on the passage, named Brennan, from dysentery coupled with advanced age. Surgeon Superintendent, Dr. Queade, of the Royal Navy. Sailed from the Cove of Cork the 26th of August, and came direct. This is another happy instance of the Regulations of His Majesty's Ministers in committing the health and safety of men, who have been considered worthy of His Royal Highness the Prince Regent's clemency, into humane hands.
Yesterday also arrived the “Recovery”, Captain Fotherley, with 188 male prisoners; none died on the passage, which was direct. She left England the 3d of August; and affords another happy instance of the humane consideration of His Royal Highness the Prince Regent in securing the lives of pardoned exiles.
The guard consists of a detachment of the 46th Regt, commanded by Lieut. Marsh, 45th Regt.24
As soon as William Evans and his fellows had disembarked, carpenters came from the dockyards to knock down the bulkheads, and the bunks set up for William’s voyage south, to prepare the Recovery for her return voyage. 25 She sailed for Calcutta via Hobart Town on February 6th, 1820. 26
William Evan’s assignment in Sydney is yet to be found, but he was not one of a comprehensive “List of 155 Male Convicts disembarked from the transport Ships “Recovery” and “Minerva 3” and Forwarded to Parramatta, Windsor, Liverpool, Bringelly and Emu Plains.” 27 There is a possibity that he was assigned to one Joseph Whitfield, his future "Master" in V.D.L., soon after he arrived in Sydney. Whatever his circumstances in Sydney were, within two months of his arrival, William was selected to serve as one of five shepherds to a singularly important flock of sheep, no doubt due to the skills he’d gained as a farm labourer back in Herefordshire. Moreover, the flock in his care were destined to play an important part in the history of Van Diemen’s Land. Earlier in the month, Governor Sorell had placed this notice in the Hobart Town Gazette explaining why this flock had been selected:
HIS EXCELLENCY the GOVERNOR in CHIEF having been pleased to notify to the LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR an Arrangement proposed for the Improvement of the Wool in Van Diemen's Land, by the import of Merino Ram Lambs, which have been tendered to the Disposal of Government by JOHN McARTHUR, Esq. of Port Jackson; all Proprietors of Sheep in this Dependency who have not yet obtained, and may desire, Information on this important and interesting Subject, are requested to apply personally, or by Letter, to the LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR'S Secretary.
By Command of His Honor, H. E. Robinson, Secretary.28
Throughout his governance, Macquarie had been tireless touring the colony, ”exhorting and advising all his subjects. He found farming slovenly and tried to improve it. After all, he had grown up on a farm in much more severe climatic conditions than anything the colony could offer.” 29 He and his irrascible countryman MacArthur both realised how important wool production could be to the country’s economy, though neither could have foreseen just how important it was to become. Today we still ”have tens of thousands of wool producing properties and production of this fibre is one of the most significant and important uses of our farm land. Our annual production consistently accounts for over one quarter of the world's wool and is often valued at well over $2 billion each year. Australia is also recognised as producing the world's highest quality woollen fibre – Australian merino wool. All of this has been achieved in just over 200 years and began with the hard work of one family – the Macarthurs.”30
”The first sheep to arrive in Australia came with the First Fleet in 1788. By the end of that year all but one had been slaughtered for food or had died.
Credit for the introduction of the the Spanish Merino goes to Captains Waterhouse and Kent who were sent by Governor Hunter to the Cape of Good Hope in 1796 to buy cattle. There Captain Phillip Gidley King on his way home to England, persuaded them to buy 26 sheep of Spanish Merino blood. A number of them died on the voyage back to Australia. On arrival Captain Macarthur immediately offered to buy all the surviving sheep for 15 guineas per head. The offer was refused and it was not until later that a few sheep were distributed to Macarthur, the Reverend Marsden and others.
Though the Australian Merino derives its name and basic appearance from the famed royal flocks of Spain, it is in every way a distinct breed, adapted to the specific conditions of this country. In 1804 Macarthur made a further very important purchase of 7 Spanish fine wool Merino rams and 1 ewe from King George III, who had been able to obtain these sheep from Spain in exchange for some Flemish horses. By skillful breeding and selection, he evolved the first Australian bred pure Merino sheep.”31
And it was from among this flock that the sheep destined for distribution in Van Diemen’s Land were chosen. From their selection through to their voyage and disembarkation in V.D.L., Governor Macquarie personally supervised every step, employing every measure possible to ensure their safe arrival. The first step was to select healthy sheep, and Macquarie wrote through Colonial Secretary Campbell to two settlers, William Howe and Robert Lowes, of Bringelley on the plains west of Sydney, to ask them to select the sheep from MacArthur’s flock at nearby Camden Park:
The Governor deeming it of such importance on the part of the government every reasonable encouragement for the breeding and rearing of the purist description of wool sheep in Van Diemen’s Land, has engaged for the purchase of 300 Male Lambs from Mr. Macarthur, this being represented by him as the Merino Breed, with a view to sending these to Van Diemen’s Land for distribution there.
Previous to their being removed from their present pasturage at Mr. Macarthur’s farm at Camden in the Cow Pastures, it is considered necessary that the young lambs should be minutely inspected on the part of this government, and His Excellency entertaining the fullest confidence in your judgement and integrity, request you proceed to Mr. Macarthur’s house in the Cow Pastures and any which may appear weak or sickly or in any way unfit for the difficulties of the Voyage, and this great object intended for the improvement of the present,
His Excellency further requests you will make him a written report on the subject of the survey as soon as it shall be completed."32
The ship Eliza, which had arrived in Sydney on January 19th, 1820 with "160 male prisoners" from England on board, 33 was chartered to transport the carefully selected flock. The ship's master, Captain Hunt, was given confirmation of the charter exactly a month later, on February 19th, in the following letter:
“I am instructed to inform you that the governor agrees to pay you Freight [of] Two Hundred and Fifty Pounds for the conveyance of three hundred sheep with a suitable number of persons, (not exceeding six), who will be victualled at the expense of the Crown."34
Governor Macquarie gave explicit instructions on how the sheep were to be transported, in a letter addressed to Edward Sindrey, the Sydney merchant chosen to supply the pens and fodder for the voyage. This letter was also written on February 19th, 1820, more than a month after William Evans first set foot on Australian soil…
“Each sheep shall have an allowance of Ship Room equal to 3 feet in breadth and Pens are to be constructed as to contain no more than 15 sheep each.” The Governor also required “Good and secure stowage for such quantity of Hay Straw, Bran and Grain as may be deemed necessary for the use of the animals during the estimated voyage to Van Diemen’s Land.”35
Finally, not one to leave any stone unturned, Macquarie dealt with the flock’s arrival in Hobart Town:
To Lieutenant Governor Sorell, per “Eliza”, 14 March 1820.-
1. Captain Hunt is not to be charged Port Dues.
2. Sheep are to be landed in 4 days at the furthest after arrival.
3. Partitions, Racks and Mangers, with all Fodder, Bran etc to be delivered up to the proper person under your orders, they having all been provided by Government.
4. There being 3 weeks Rations embarked for the 6  men to go in charge of the sheep, they are to be accounted for in like manner to the fodder.
Mr. FRAZIER, the Government Botanist proceeds by this opportunity to make some collections in his own department, and in the mean time has the principal charge of the sheep. The other five Men who are to take care of them are Prisoners of the Crown and may be retained for the services in Van Diemen’s Land…36
These "Prisoners of the Crown" appeared on "List Of Five Male Convicts proceeding to Hobart Town, Van Diemen’s Land, on board the [late transport] Ship Eliza, Hunt, Master; in charge of the merino sheep sent to that settlement on account of Government, per said ship, with the Times and Places of trial and sentences extracted from the indents of the respective ships by which they arrived in this Colony.” William must have made a very good impression in the short time he'd been in the colony to have been included in this group, as his ship was the second last to arrive before he was selected. Only John Kiliminster arrived after him.
- John Bolland, Fortune, 1813, Bedford Assizes. 5th March, 1812, Life. Shepherd.
- Stephen Edwards, Tottenham 1818, Gloucester Assizes, 1817, 7 years, Servant.
- Stephen Gibbs, Admiral Gambier 1, 1809. Bucks, 28th February, 1807. Life. Shepherd.
- John Kilminster, Prince Regent, 1820. Warwick Assizes, 27th March, 1819. 14 years, Labourer.
- William Evans, Recovery, 1819, Hereford Assizes, 22nd March 1819, Life, Labourer. 37
The Eliza left Sydney Town on March 20, 1820: "The ship “Eliza”, Captain Hunt, from Port Jackson, having on board the Merino ram lambs from Mr. McArthur's flocks for this Settlement, arrived on Monday in six days. - Passengers, Mr. Chambers, of the late 21st Dragoons, and family; Mr. Joseph Whitfield; and Mrs. Robert Howe." 38
This newspaper report failed to mention William Evans and his fellow convicts, and given the language in Governor Macquarie’s instructions to William Sorell, that they were “to be accounted for in like manner to the fodder”, it’s tempting to think they were as unimportant to the newspaper reporter as they were to Macquarie. However, since the paper also failed to mention two other equally important Government "appointees", this apparent bias isn’t borne out by the evidence. Robert Howe, son of George Howe, proprietor of the Sydney Gazette, who’d initially helped Lowes select the sheep, and the Government Botanist, Mr. Frazier, were also on board. Mr. and Mrs.Howes, and Mr. Frazier returned separately to Sydney a month or so after the sheep were landed, unlike the convicts, who remained in V.D.L.39
Two other passengers travelling on the Eliza, Joseph Whitfield, and a member of the Chambers family, were soon to play a part in William Evan’s life in Van Diemen’s Land. The voyage was not only important to the young colony’s economic growth: it was significant to William Evans personally.
The Gazette also reported the fate of some of the sheep in the same issue: despite all the care and attention lavished upon them, a number died on the voyage south:
“The Merino lambs were landed on Wednesday; and though they appeared to have suffered from their voyage, they have since considerably recovered; and with the grass which the late rain may be expected to renew, they will no doubt in a short time be wholly restored. - We are sorry to find that a considerable number died on the passage;- from what cause is not exactly known; but sheep seem to suffer more than any animal from confinement, and from any deterioration as to air; and it appears extremely difficult to secure them, when transported in large numbers, from sickness.”40
The remaining rams, 181 in all, sold for seven guineas a head, were distributed to a number the island’s most prominent landholders. This group included a number of men related in some significant way to various Goodwin family members, Roger Gavin, James Stynes, Richard Troy, David Lord, and Thomas Salmon in particular. In the south, 135 rams went to: Abbott, Edward, 3; Austin, James, 2; Blyth, William 6; Brodribb, W.A. 3; Evans, W.G. 2; Emmett, H.J. 2; Fryett, R.W. 4; Gordon, James 5; Gatehouse, George 4; Gatehouse, Silas 4; Gunning, G.W. 4; Gavin, Roger 2; Humphrey, A.W.H. 10; Jeffrey, Charles 4; Jemott, William, 3; Kimberley, Edward, 3; Lord, Mrs. E. and J. Riseley, 18; Lord, David, 4; Lascelles, T.A. 5; Miller, Edward, 6; Pitt, Richard, 2; Reardon, Barthw., 3; Rayner, William, 2; Riley, Thomas, 2; Salmon, Thomas, 2; Stines and Troy, 5; Stocker, W.T. 4; Thrupp, Henry, 4; Townson, Capt. 2; Triffet, James, 4; Wells, Thomas 4; Wade, John 3; Wright, Joseph, 4.” At Port Dalrymple 46 sheep were distributed to : “ Archer, Thomas 10; Barclay, Andrew 5; Brumby, J. 5; Baker, W.F. 2; Cox, James 5; Dry, Richard 10; Leith, W.E. 2; Reibey, Thomas, 2; Youl, Revd. John, 3; White, W. 2.”41
After he arrived in Hobart Town, William Evans was assigned to his fellow traveller, Joseph Whitfield. However, there’s the distinct possibility that his assignment with Whitfield commenced in Sydney, given the timing of Joseph Whitfield’s movements after he first arrived in the colony. Joseph Whitfield had arrived in Van Diemen’s Land onboard the “Regalia” in December, 1819, 42 before continuing on to Sydney on the same ship on December 25th, Christmas Day, 1819. 43 Apparently he travelled to Sydney in order to present a letter of recommendation from Lord Bathurst to Governor Macquarie, requesting the governor’s “Indulgence”, as the following letter addressed to “Joseph Whitfield, Free Settler, Sydney”, explains:
“having brought out an Investment consisting of Implements of Husbandry and other Articles to an amount exceeding two thousand five hundred pounds. I am commanded by His Excellency to inform you that in consideration of the recommendation of Lord Bathurst. His Excellency will order a Location and admeasurement for a grant of 1000 Acres, and the service of five Government men, who with yourself and family will be victualled from His Majesty’s Stores six months from your entering on the profession of the Lands so to be Located and made over in Grant to you.”44
The Colonial Secretary, Campbell, had originally been under the impression that Joseph Whitfield wished to settle in N.S.W., “but as he has since communicated his Purpose to reside in Van Diemen’s Land, (whither he now proceeds per “Eliza”), Governor Macquarie asked that he be given ”equal measure of indulgences as promised him earlier.45
Soon after his arrival in Hobart Town, Joseph Whitfield received his promised allotment in Liverpool Street. By a strange coincidence, his property was rented out by Richard Underwood, in 1821, the man who was to marry Eliza Jane Briscoe’s aunt, Maria Goodwin. “MR. R. Underwood begs Leave to inform the Public, that he has removed from his Premises in Liverpool-street, to that belonging to Mr. Whitfield in the same Street, opposite the Court House.”46
Joseph Whitfield was also granted 1,000 acres at the Cross-Marsh, now Melton Mowbray, and it was here that William Evans was employed. From the start, William was employed as a shepherd, one of the few farming occupations that Joseph Whitfield could undertake while this virgin land was being fenced and cleared. Early in 1821, one of William’s fellow servants was drowned in the River Jordan, which formed one of the farm’s boundaries – an eerie echo of the fate of Eliza Jane’s father and little brother. “On Sunday se'nnight,47 as an assigned Government servant to Mr. Whitfield, named John McPoole, was bathing in the River Jordan at the Cross Marsh, he was unfortunately drowned. From the account of another of Mr. W.'s servants, who saw the unfortunate man go down, and who had several times particularly cautioned him from going into that part of the river where he was drowned, owing to its being very deep and dangerous there, it appears that he sunk immediately after he reached the same place - The body was dragged for, but could not be found till the Thursday evening following.” It’s quite likely that William had been the witness to John McPoole’s death: given his naval background, he would have been more aware than most of the dangers of the deep.48
Later in the year stray sheep joined the flock in William’s care: “STRAYED, some time ago, into the Flock of Mr. Joseph Whitfield, at the Cross Marsh, a Number of Sheep, branded on the Cheek with as H. Y. - Whoever can prove the said Sheep to be their Property, may have them by applying as above, and paying the necessary Expenses.” 49 William received a highly regarded prize for his ministrations to this same flock at a meeting of the Agricultural Society at the Ship Inn in Hobart town in 1824. “A suit of clothes and four dollars” was given to “William Evans, assigned servant to Mr. Whitfield, for his care of a flock of 800 sheep for three years; and having, during the last year, reared 429 lambs from 308 ewes.”, one of only five shepherds so honoured in that year. Moreover, Joseph Whitfield had been one of two judges who selected the prizewinners – William was obviously held in high esteem by his employer.50
Joseph Whitfield had been a founding member of the Agricultural Society, which set its aims in the following notice:
“WE.. Land and Stock-holders taking into Consideration the daily increasing Number of Persons occupying themselves in Agricultural Pursuits, and the great Amount of Capital invested therein, and feeling the Necessity of encouraging by every possible Means those Interests universally admitted to be the great Source of Colonial Prosperity, taking also into Consideration the numerous and alarming Depredations committed upon the Flocks and Herds depasturing in the Interior, and the very extensive Losses sustained in Consequence, request a Meeting of the Stock-holders and Gentlemen connected with the Agricultural Interests, at the Ship Inn, in Hobart Town, on the 1st of January  next, at Twelve o'Clock precisely, for the Purpose of establishing a Society, - upon the Principles of those existing in the Mother Country, for the Protection of Property, the Prosecution of Offenders, affording, as far as Funds will admit, remuneration to Sufferers, establishing a Cattle Shew, giving Bounties to deserving Servants, and for the Protection and Encouragement of Agricultural Pursuits in general.”51
These “Bounties to deserving Servants”, which William was later to receive, were clarified in a later meeting that year:
“1. That a suit of clothes and one guinea be given to each of the 10 male servants in husbandry, and to each of the 10 female servants, prisoners of the Crown, being in the employ of Members of the Society, who shall have lived for the longest period beyond 3 years in their respective services, and who shall have conducted themselves in the most exemplary manner.”
“2. To each of 5 shepherds who shall have taken care of a flock of sheep (not less than 300), in the best manner, for a period of not less than one year.”52
Apart from encouraging and awarding “servants”, the Agricultural Society’s aimed to correct the problem that had arisen when the “Thirds System” was introduced. This system had long inadvertently encouraged the crime of sheep stealing, by giving convict servants a third of the annual increase of the flocks in their care in lieu of the recommended payment of clothing and rations.53 Despite the society’s noble aims,“That the Members of the Society pledge themselves in no Case whatever to dispose of Stock, either in Payment or otherwise, to Convict Servants; and that the utmost individual Exertions of the Society be used to put a stop to a Practice which aids the Commission of the Crime, it is the anxious Desire of the Society to prevent,” 54 the system continued to flourish. William himself used a version of it later, when he advertised for “SHEEP ON THE HALVES” in 1833.55
The Society’s members were also encouraged to set themselves up as vigilantes, as it was “the Determination of this Society to prosecute, before a Court of Criminal Jurisdiction, every Person committed for Trial on a Charge of Depredation on Stock; and that proportionate Rewards, of a Value not less than Ten Guineas, be given to the Party by whose Means the Offender shall be detected and convicted.” Joseph Whitfield was awarded “not less than Ten Guineas” for “having caused John Kennedy to be apprehended, on a charge of sheep-dealing” and the “Special Committee prosecute[d] this offender accordingly.”56
The next year an over zealous Joseph Whitfield levied a fine of 12/6 “on a Person for riding in a Cart without Reins” on behalf of the Agricultural Society: it’s difficult to see how a traffic offence came under the society’s charter.57
Perhaps Joseph Whitfield had confused his roles, as he’d been appointed Chief District Constable for the District of Green Ponds on 24 May 1822. 58 In August that same year, he was appointed “Keeper of the Pound for the same, under the established Regulations.”59
In 1825, a large gang of bushrangers were, once again, terrorising the countryside. Led by Matthew Brady, they roamed the length and breadth of the island, plundering isolated homesteads of everything they held. The sparsely settled midlands near Joseph Whitfield’s property at Cross Marsh was a prime target for their forays, as these newspaper articles, dated 17 June and 5 August 1825, relate:
“BRADY AND McCABE. - On Monday morning at day-light, Mr. STOCKER, accompanied by another Gentleman, left the neighbourhood of Ross Bridge on horse-back, and after proceeding along the road for Hobart Town, until within a mile of Mr. Whitfield’s, at the Cross Marsh, they perceived about half-past three o'clock in the afternoon, a cart standing on the highway, at a distance of about 200 yards from them, and at the same moment observed two men gently approach it, and apparently without taking the smallest notice of them. On a nearer approach one of the men looked inside the cart, when Mr. Stocker's companion stated his opinion that they were Constables searching for stolen property. Upon this supposition, the travellers boldly went up, and. on coming within ten yards, the two men sprang from the cart, and presented two guns at them, at the same time threatening to blow out their brains, if any attempt should be made at resistance, they then commanded the Gentlemen to dismount and walk into the bush, and on accordingly doing so, Mr. Stocker looked back and observed Mr. Bryant with one of his servants, both lying tied on the ground; on arrival at this spot, the shorter man of the two, whom it is believed Brady, bound Mr. Stocker's friend with a pocket handkerchief, and took from his person £4 in currency notes, a gold watch, and several trinkets of considerable value. After losing these articles, he ran off as well as he could towards Mr. Bryant, when Brady commanded Mr. Stocker to allow his hands to be tied. On doing which he also was robbed of his gold watch and its appendages, together with several pounds. In this situation the Gentlemen continued until 5 o'clock, when the robbers untied Mr. Bryant and his servant, and allowed them to depart. In a few moments after Mr. Stocker and his fellow traveller were allowed to proceed on their journey but the bush-rangers detained their horses under a promise of sending them on to Mr. Whitfield’s by his servant, - whom they had taken away during the afternoon. From the frequent opportunities of conversing with Mr. Bryant, which were afforded to his fellow sufferers, it was found that he had been detained since 8 o'clock in the morning, and had been robbed of £11 in bank notes. About an hour after, the dismounted party arrived at Mr. Whitfield’s, the servant returned without their horses, and informed them that the robbers had mounted them and rode off. - Mr. Stocker has since his arrival in Hobart Town, communicated the preceding circumstances to His Honor the Lieutenant Governor, who we trust, will employ all the means in his power towards expediting the capture of the banditti. From a variety of very suspicious occurrences, we are led to believe that several assigned servants up the country are in league with these audacious ruffians.
After writing the above, we learn from authentic sources, that Brady and McCabe have been since seen in a different quarter, and recognised as the free booters who made the attack just particularized.”60
“McCabe and Brady. - On Friday last, about 1 o'clock in the day, these men stopped Mr. C. Thomson and Mr. J. Presnell, of this town, within a mile of Mr. Whitfield’s, at the Cross Marsh. - They took them into the bush, a short distance from the road and robbed them of their money and such articles of their wearing apparel as they wanted. McCabe changed hats with Mr. Thompson: they appeared in high spirits, talked of their farm in the Mountains, and that they should decorate their hut with a small pair of pocket pistols, which they took from Mr. Thompson. They seemed to know every thing which was going on, and mentioned Mr. Kemp's horse, which they said they would shoot, as they would him, if they fell in with him. Mr. Graham, the Government gardener, was robbed by them the same day. After detaining Messrs. T. and P. for about two hours, they allowed them to proceed.”
On Saturday last, at 3 o'clock in the afternoon, Brady and McCabe committed another robbery at the Clyde. They stopped a gig with Mr. Blair, and Mr. Russel in it, going from Mr. Read's towards Captain Wood's; therefore it will be seen that these determined bush-rangers are very active in their movements.
We should recommend any parties that may be sent in pursuit of them, to keep the top of the hills instead of the high road, and when they think they approach their object, to remain during the night on the highest hill, to be able to reconnoitre and see if any thing is moving, if a native could be procured to track them, we have no doubt they would be apprehended in less than a fortnight. Provisions also for the parties should be at certain depots, who should no account, visit any stock-keeper's hut.- It is stated that the bush-rangers have a depot of sundries, at their hut behind the Table Mountain.”61
As the year came to a close, Joseph Whitfield, in his role of Chief District Constable, took decisive action against Brady’s gang, accompanied by two of his “government servants”, and as the Gazette suggested, “a native” was “procured” to aid them in tracking down the gang. William Evans was one of these two un-named “government servants”, no doubt valued for his military skills as much as for his loyalty.
The Bushrangers. - On Monday last, the bush-rangers (12 in number), after robbing Mr. Pitt, and a number of other Settlers in the neighbourhood of the Cross Marsh, were attacked by a party, consisting of 7 or 8 soldiers, two of Mr. Kemp's Government men, two of Mr. Whitfields's, two of Mr. Espie's, and some others, 29 in number, all armed, headed by Mr. Whitfield. The attack took place within 2 miles of Captain Wood's, at the Clyde. In a short time, Charman (Mr. Kemp's prisoner servant), who with two Soldiers were the foremost in the pursuit, was wounded and fell; as was also one of the soldiers. The attacking party having expended all their ammunition, in an engagement which lasted an hour, were obliged to retreat. The bushrangers then ran away, and one of their party (supposed to be Brady) was observed to be wounded, and carried off. We understand that the soldiers, assisted by some volunteer armed prisoners, are in pursuit of them; and we trust a good account will shortly be received of these most atrocious offenders.
On the same day, the same party had previously fallen in with them, and succeeded in capturing their horses and knapsacks; a man named Hodgetts, who had been with them but one night, was thrown from his horse and taken. We have heard statements of some violent outrages committed by this banditti at the Coal River, and in that neighbourhood, which we do not credit, and which, at all events, it would be improper to give publicity to. The courage and determination displayed by District Constable Whitfield, we have no doubt will be duly appreciated by His Excellency the Governor.” 62
The latter paragraph seems to be a garbled account of what actually happened to “a man named Hodgetts”, as a man named “Hodgson” brought a suit against one of the soldiers in Chief District Constable Whitfield’s party the following year:
Michael Slattery, a private in the 40th Regiment of Foot, was indicted for firing at Edmund Hodgson. It appeared that the prisoner was one of a party of military stationed at the Cross Marsh, to go in pursuit of the banditti then at large. Information having been received by Mr. Whitfield, the Chief District Constable, which induced him to despatch the party at his house, Slattery, with five other soldiers, a black native, and a constable went in pursuit of the robbers. Near the Cross Marsh, they saw a man on horseback at a short distance - they challenged him repeatedly, but he did not stop, and appeared to make such motions as they construed into defiance. It was known at that time that many of the party of bushrangers were well-dressed, and nine of them were mounted besides Patrick Brown, lately executed. Mr. Hodgson (the person on horseback) disregarded the calls of the military whom he knew to be such, one of the men (Slattery) fired, but happily missed him. The trial lasted four hours. The jury was composed of officers not belonging to the 40th Regiment. It being apparent that the soldier had acted in a conscientious discharge of his duty without any malice towards Mr. Hodgson, after a most impartial charge from the Chief Justice, the jury found the prisoner - Not Guilty.63
A later account of this confrontation between Brady and Whitfield's men was written by the historian J.E. Calder, and published in The Mercury newspaper in 1873. Though Calder was not present when Brady's gang was roaming the island, he had the benefit of speaking to some of the men who were eyewitnesses to these events, so there is more detail in this account that the contemporary newspaper accounts as a result:
…till they reached the farm of Mr. Kearney at St Paul's Plains, where they rested and re-equipped themselves completely, and took to the highways again as soon as they were quite recruited, their recommencement of active life being marked by unusual havoc and audacity. At this time Brady managed to mount his party, who, excepting two of them, were all capital riders……
After this half-mad frolic [stealing from one Flexmore] was over they mounted and rode off, making towards the house of a lady of the name of Ransome, who lived near by and in whose service Brady had once been, and he had not forgotten her kindly acts or kindly manners, and he suffered none of his men to enter her dwelling, and only asked that each of them might be supplied with a glass of wine, for which he thanked her respectfully and
The fact that these men were Brady's party having transpired during this brief interview, an officious servant started off to the residence of the district constable, Mr. Whitfield, who lived at the Cross Marsh, about a mile and a half away, and informed him of the morning's transactions. That officer instantly got his constables together, and as many of the soldiers of the detachment stationed there as chanced to be sober, and moved them towards Green Ponds, in quest of the fugitives. But the advancing force, instead of keeping amongst the trees, marched along the highway, where the land was cleared on either side. The bushrangers, who were seldom off their guard, observed the enemy before they were seen themselves. It was of course no part of Brady's policy to expose his men to unnecessary danger, and before Whitfield's people, who were the stronger party, could reach them, they were in their saddles, and off they went at a sharp canter through the bush. The soldiers fired at them at a venture, though they were quite out of range, and the only effect of the discharge was to make some of their horses shy, by which two of them were dismounted, namely the youth Williams, and a man named Hodgetts. But the former stuck to his bridle, and regaining his seat, followed the tracks of the rest and rejoined them; but Hodgetts came to grief, and his horse bolting, he was seized and secured directly, and sent under an escort to the guard-house.
The bushrangers did not waste powder on their pursuers, who were too far off to be reached; but being well mounted, were soon out of sight.
But Whitfield was not the man to give up a pursuit, so long as he thought that any good might come of it; and though his party were all a-foot, he kept on their track towards Bothwell, which is about fourteen miles from the Cross Marsh. But as Bothwell was then a military station, the bushrangers went not too near it, but turned into the bush near the Den Hill, to avoid placing themselves between two fires.
The day was one of adventures. After a march of several miles, that was rendered more wearisome by the hot unclouded sun of a Tasmanian midsummer afternoon, Whitfield and his party, twenty-nine all told, reached the highest point of the road, that is where it crosses the inferior slopes of the Den Hill, an eminence of great abruptness and considerable elevation, but pretty smooth and low where the road passes over it. While resting a minute at the top of this commanding point, some one of the soldiers espied a thin light smoke ascending from a part of the hollow beneath them, where they knew there were no residences, a circumstance which assured them there were strangers there, and probably the very fellows they were after. With fresh hopes they plunged into the basin of the Clyde, a small sluggish stream that issues from some most beautiful lakes in the mountainous regions of Central Tasmania. Taking a compass bearing of the smoke, Whitfield's men hurried towards it at a good pace, and in less than an hour came upon the retreat of the enemy, who they found, some sitting on or lying about the grass, refreshing themselves, whilst one was standing in their midst, reading aloud from the last week's Colonial Times, for the edification of such of the others as chose to listen; the others, all except a sentinel, being asleep close by. Their horses stood saddled, ready for an instant move if necessary. On seeing the approach of the advancing party, the sentry on watch roused the rest and then discharged his piece at the foremost of the approaching body, which was now too close on them for them to escape from without a fight for it. Whitfield's people made a rush to place themselves between the outlaws and their horses, but were repulsed by the others (who were under cover of trees) by a general volley, which sent two of them down, wounded, but not fatally. The firing lasted about three quarters of an hour; but so well was each side protected, that little further mischief was done, when the fight ceased through the ammunition of the assailants failing them.
It was now getting dusk, and under cover of coming night and the haze created by the smoke of more than forty muskets the bushrangers made a dash at their horses, and got possession of most of them and made off. An ill-directed volley from a few of the soldiers, whose ammunition was not quite spent, was sent after them, but with no effect. Of the robbers, two or three only lost their steeds; but being pretty fresh they followed their companions so quickly afoot, (Brady being one of the dismounted ones,) as not to be greatly behind. But the soldiers and civilians were so knocked up, more by the heat of the day than the length of their march, that the pursuit was very feebly kept up, and the brigands all escaped.
The horse stolen from Flexmore in the morning, was re-taken, and ten of the forty five pounds of his money, which the robbers had dropped in their llight, were also recovered. The Gazette announces with a flourish that ten of the horses were taken; but Mr. Flexmore assures me they were not…..64
Brady’s gang separated soon after his clash with Whitfield and his men …
“It appears that immediately after the attack of this daring banditti by the party under the direction of Mr. Whitfield, Chief District Constable at the Cross Marsh, a separation ensued; and Bird, Brown, Dunne, Gregory, and four others left Brady, and those of the gang in whom he more immediately confided, and retreated to their old haunts near the Lakes. ln the course of the last week, they made their appearance near the junction of the Derwent and Ouse, where they were seen by some stock-keepers.”
”They have since robbed Mr. Triffit, sen. from whose house they took away everything moveable, and the only horse there. They have since been seen in different directions in that neighbourhood, but no particulars are accurately known.”65
Soon afterwards, Brady’s entire gang was captured and tried, their fate is recorded:
The “courage and determination displayed by District Constable Whitfield,” and by William Evans in the previous December were “duly appreciated by His Excellency the Governor”. William was promptly rewarded with his Ticket of Leave in early February, 1826. 66 Though delighted to have his life sentence reduced to a mere six or so years, he must have been a little annoyed when Governor Arthur enacted a new reward system just three weeks later, on March 1st, whereby “prisoners of the Crown” who assisted in the apprehension of the bushrangers could have their sentences entirely revoked. The relevant sections of Arthur’s proclamation of that day follow:
WHEREAS, Matthew Brady, Patrick Bryant, Josiah Bird, William Brown, Michael Cody, Patrick Dunne, James Goodwin, John Gregory, James McKenney, James Murphy, Edward Williams and William Tilly (for whose Apprehension Rewards have been already offered), yet remain at large; and have lately added to their Crimes of Murder, and other personal Outrage and Plunder,….”
AND I DO HEREBY ALSO PROCLAIM, that any Person giving such Information as may lead to the Apprehension of the said Offenders, shall immediately afterwards receive from the Government, either the Sum of One Hundred Guineas, or (at his election) Three Hundred Acres of Land, free from all Restriction:- And that if the Information be given by a Prisoner, he shall receive a Free Pardon, and be provided with a Free Passage to England, in addition the last-mentioned Reward.
AND I DO HEREBY FURTHER PROCLAIM, that the Chief Chief Constable of the District in which the Offenders may be apprehended, shall immediately afterwards receive a Grant of One Hundred Acres of Land, free from all Restrictions, provided it shall be certified by the Magistrates of such District, that he then, and all Times, zealously exerted himself to detect and apprehend the said Offenders:- And, for the Purpose of aiding and assisting in clearing the Island of this most hardened Banditti, the Settlers are hereby most earnestly entreated forth-with to arm themselves, and associate in Parties, under the Advice and Direction of the Magistrates of their Districts, with whom all the Military Parties have been placed in Communication; or. if their shall not be any Magistrate residing in the District, then of their Chief District Constable.67
Nonetheless, William was still a relatively free man, and he chose to remain at Cross Marsh on Joseph Whitfield’s property, now named “Woodlands”, earnings a salary for the first time since his trial in England. By 1828, when William wrote to request free passage for his wife Pamela, he had earnt enough through his “industrious habits..” to support his wife.68 It’s quite feasible that William’s hard won funds came from his own flock once he’d gained his Ticket of Leave, as sheep were his area of expertise, and the source of much of the colony’s wealth. Unlike Eliza Jane Briscoe’s aunt and uncle, Elizabeth and James Goodwin, who’d also been employed as shepherds, William had not been permitted to build up his own flock under the “Thirds System” while assigned to Joseph Whitfield. Perhaps he began to purchase his own sheep while he remained at Woodlands, agisting them there with Joseph Whitfield’s flock…he certainly had his own flock soon after he left the property. 69
Less than a decade since William had been assigned to Woodlands, the virgin land had been transformed into one of the colony’s showcases. Equal credit for this transformation is due both to Whitfield’s agricultural expertise, and the labours of his convict “servants”: Van Diemen’s Land was one of the few places outside of America’s slave plantations where a property such as this could develop so quickly, for so little capital. William was still living there in 1828, when the following description of the estate appeared in the Hobart Town Courier:
THE ESTATE of Woodlands, consisting of 1000 Acres, nearly the whole of which is rich arable Land, inferior to none in this Island, and equal to any in the most fertile counties in England. There is an enclosure of about 100 acres on the left of the highroad to Launceston which intersects the Grant at the Thirty-two Mile Post. On the right, or east side of the road, is a most extensive Marsh, watered by several Springs, calculated for Meadows, and capable of yielding immense crops of Hay. The river Jordan forms one of the boundaries and runs at the back of the Homestead, which consists of a neat and comfortable weather-boarded House, with a Parlour, Bed-Rooms, and Kitchen, a Brick-house for Servants containing four Rooms, a Stone Dairy, with Granary, a Smithy, a substantial Log Barn, &c.70
Meanwhile, Joseph Whitfield added yet more civic duties to busy calendar, acting as “Clerk of the Course” at the Jericho Races in March, 1826, 71 and becoming a founding member of the “Cross Marsh Market Committee”, that December. The first meeting resolved:
“1st.-That a Periodical Market or Fair, established at the Cross Marsh, would prove highly advantageous to the Community, and, in co-operation with that recently formed at Ross, might be eminently beneficial to the Colony at large.”
“2ndly,-That a Market be accordingly held at Mr. Whitfield’s, Cross Marsh, on the Third Tuesday of March; the Second to be fixed after conferring with the Ross Market Committee.”
The committee consisted of a number of prominent landholders: “P. Wood, Esq. J. P., A. F. Kemp, Esq., T. Anstey, Esq., J. P., J. Bryant, Esq., J. Scott, Esq., J. P., C. Franks, Esq., W. Clark, Esq., J. P,. J.Whitfield, Esq., and A. Reid, Esq.” 72
By this stage, Joseph Whitfield was a founding member of the Jericho races, the Agricultural Society, and the Cross Marsh Market Committee, alongside his roles as Chief District Constable, and District Poundkeeper. Nevertheless, he remained a farmer first and foremost, and was distressed to find that insect attacks had led to severe losses to his wheat harvest in February, 1827. The following item ambiguously attributing these losses to “a single insect” set up a flurry of amusing correpondence to and fro the Colonial Times newspaper:
February 9th: THE WEAVIL . - We understand, that destructive creature, the weavil, has made its appearance in Mr. Whitfield’s wheat; where a single insect, in two days, occasioned a defalcation of about eleven bushels! in a load on its road to Hobart Town. It is to be hoped that there are no more of these destructive insects in the Colony. 73
February 23rd.: Literal truth? To the Editor of the Colonial Times.
SIR, - I am sorry to observe your interesting Paper should be made the vehicle of falsehood, but such was the case the week before last, in a paragraph respecting a "single insect" which was stated occasioned a loss to Mr. Whitfield of "eleven bushels of wheat in two days," A more gross untruth, Mr. Editor, was never published; yet, if Mr. W. imagines "that single insect" had been tasting his wheat, I would recommend an effectual plan to prevent "the insect" getting into it in future. Let Mr. W. discharge a twelve-pounder at it - mark, nothing less than a shot of twelve pounds will do, and I am convinced that "destructive creature" will never disturb his wheat again. But perhaps Mr. W. has not such a shot left in his locker; in which case he is to be pitied, parlicularly when it is considered what enormous expenses "Gentlemen farmers" are at before their wheat is brought to market.
Nevertheless, these witticisms were tempered with some scathing comments regarding other losses incurred by the colony’s farmers at the hands of private gatekeepers.
By the way, Mr. Editor, there is one item in the list of expenses which I cannot help making a few remarks on. If there are no turnpikes in the Colony, Sir, there are gate-keepers, who levy such heavy tolls at their bar, that a Gentleman farmer cannot pass through on his way home, before two or three loads of wheat have been swallowed up to defray the charges; indeed there is one gate, (I believe it is a green one), where the rates are above all others, and if I were to ask the keeper of it why, he would say it was highly necessary, for the receipts of his bar went to support a "large corporation;" and if Gentlemen Farmers would hop in his wood, they must pay for it; but I must say, Mr. Editor, it bears extremely hard upon Gentlemen Farmers who leave their home at harvest time to spend three weeks in town with "jolly companions every one," to have such heavy demands made upon them by Gate-keepers, who would rather see a Farmer's whole crop swallowed up at his Bar, than allow a single grain of wheat go to the support of a "single insect," or that "destructive creature" the "WEAVIL." 74
March 9th: Mr. WHITFIELD must excuse us this week, from inserting his "fifty-pounder," loaded with "Swedish bars." We must keep it for a reserve "shot in our locker."75
March 17th: “Upon examination, we find that Mr. Whitfield's "FIFTY-POUNDER", with which he has armed himself and us, against the "WEAVEL," is "hunny-combed" and dangerous, and not fit for service. - We therefore decline using it, as we do not wish to get "BLOWN UP." 76
Here the correspondence ended. The news of Joseph Whitfield's death later in the same year ended a singularly important period in William’s life. Joseph Whitfield died on “Thursday morning the 8th [November, 1827] inst. aged 37 years, …much and justly regretted by all who knew him.” 77
During the years William spent with Joseph Whitfield, both as a convict and as a Ticket-of-Leave man, not one offence was recorded against him, a tribute to Joseph Whitfield’s humanity as much as to William’s good character. It’s not surprising that William chose to remain at Woodlands after he gained his T.L., and it’s almost certain that he would have attended Joseph Whitfield’s funeral. After the funeral service at St. David's Cathedral in Hobart Town, Joseph was buried in St. David’s Cemetery nearby, and William went back to Woodlands, the only place both he and his late employer had called home since they arrived in the colony together just seven years earlier.
William's first marriage in VDL to come....................
On June 4 1836, a month before Eliza Jane married William Evans, he gave her a block of land in Stanley Street, Oatlands.78 This land was to stand her in good stead when William deserted her about a decade later. With the funds she made from the sale of this block Eliza Jane was able to make a new life for herself and her new partner, Robert Hill, at Montagu on the north–west coast.
A transcription of this land transaction follows:
A Memorial of a certain Agreement to be registered pursuant to the Act of Council in such case made and provided.
The fourth day of June 1836.
William Evans of Oatlands in Van Diemen’s Land Farmer of the one part and Eliza Briscoe of the second part.
Names of the Witnesses: Jorgen Jorgenson and John Thomas.
Nature and Object of the Agreement and of the land thereby affected.
An Agreement made this 4th day of June 1836 Between William Evans of Oatlands Farmer Van Diemen’s Land of the first part and Eliza Briscoe of the second part Witnesseth that he the said William Evans agrees and forever binds himself by these present to give as a free gift to the said Eliza Briscoe All that allotment of Land with the building and all other improvements thereon erected situate in the Township of Oatlands aforesaid the said William Evans having lately purchased the said allotment of Land from Patrick Gough the said Patrick Gough having purchased the Said allotment of Land from Samuel Robinson and which said allotment of land was purchased by the said Samuel Robinson from the Crown on the 17th Day of October 1834 and was then described in the Sale of Crown Lands No. 7 Section P. The said allotment of Land is now considered the property of the said Eliza Briscoe and is not subject to the debts or engagements of the said William Evans or any person claiming on to obtain by from under or in trust for him. As Witness our hands the day and year first above written.
William Evans X (his Mark).
Witnesses Jorgen Jorgenson, John Thomas. 79
Following William Evans' marriage to Eliza Briscoe in 1836 the couple were known to be farming in the Brighton district. (More to come - William rented a small farm from John Swan during this period.) They had two children baptised in Green Ponds on 23 April 1840, William John and James.80. For some reason some researchers believe that James was later known as Frederick James but it is not known how that belief came about. Just over a month after the boys baptism, according to later records, they had their first daughter, Selina Sarah, born 26 May 1840.81
There is some confusion about their next child. According to a later baptism registration Robert Edward Evans was born 7 September 1841.82 According to a State birth registration, Edward George Evans was born 17 September 1842.83 Later researchers have believed these two events to actually represent the same person.
These issues were compounded by the fact that some of William and Eliza's children were known by different names. Their next boy, Richard John Albert Evans, born 10 April 1844, was known as Albert Evans. Richard (or Albert) and his siblings Sarah and Robert, were baptised on 19 November 1847 in Richmond.84 A month earlier on 8 October 1847 a daughter, Caroline Maria, had been baptised, also in Richmond, but later evidence suggests that Caroline was actually the daughter of Eliza's second partner Robert Hill.85
The timing of the birth of Caroline to Eliza Jane and Robert Hill implies that Eliza Jane's marriage to William Evans had effectively ended around July 1846, when she was conceived. It was not long after this time that William Evans separated from Eliza Jane, taking his sons with him.
Before Charles Schaw and Alexander Goldie 3rd. January 1849
William Evans – Free by Servitude
On information – deserting his wife and children.
Read and Write. – Plea – Guilty. Case dismissed. 86
Around the year 1851, when gold was discovered in Victoria, William took his three boys to Launceston with the intention of crossing Bass Strait and trying his luck on the newly opened up gold-fields. Unfortunately, he somehow lost his money in Launceston, and was forced to give up his plans. At the time, his youngest boy, Robert Edward Evans, was only ten years old. 87
It seems that Eliza Jane was not to see her sons again until after William's death - she and her "husband" Robert Hill moved to Circular Head after their bigamous marriage in Battery Point, taking their two daughters, Caroline Hill and Cassandra Hill, born in 1849, and their half-sibling Selina Evans, with them.
More to come on William Evan's and his son's later life on the East Coast....
- 1. AOT Baptism Registration NS282/8/1/1-4 (Reel Z2245)
- 2. TPI Baptism Registration RGD 1820/808
- 3. Numerous Newspaper articles refer to this event, and Benjamin's activities at the time were revealed through the research of Gabriella Canning. See the page devoted to Sarah Goodwin and Benjamin Briscoe for further information.
- 4. AOT Marriage Registration NS373/1/29
- 5. About.com: EVANS - Name Meaning & Origin http://genealogy.about.com/od/surname_meaning/p/evans.htm
- 6. AOT Convict Permission to Marry CON45/1 RGD36/2 Marriage Reg. 1831/1748
- 7. Evans, Kenneth J., Blood and Water..
- 8. CON/31/1/9, Archives Office of Tasmania.
- 9. Bouchier, Philip: E-mail correspondence with Philip Bouchier, Archivist. Herefordshire Archive Service, Herefordshire, England.
- 10. AOT Convict Conduct Record CON/31/1/9
- 11. GENUKI Littlebury http://www.genuki.org.uk/big/eng/HEF/NortonCanon/Littlebury1876.html
- 12. Evans, Kenneth J., Blood and Water., page 13.
- 13. Mercury 15 April 1874
- 14. Mercury 15 April 1874
- 15. http://www.napoleon.org/en/fun_stuff/dico/archives.asp
- 16. Evans, Kenneth J., Blood and Water.
- 17. Evans, Kenneth J., Blood and Water.
- 18. Evans, Kenneth J., Blood and Water.
- 19. IGI Marriage Reg. Batch No. M138722. Source Call No.: 104008
- 20. Transcription of letter requesting passage to VDL for Pamela Evans to come.
- 21. GENUKI Littlebury http://www.genuki.org.uk/big/eng/HEF/Clehonger/Littlebury1876.html
- 22. Cunningham, P, Journal of the Recovery, 1819., Admin 101/63 3208.
- 23. Barnard, Marjorie, Lachlan Macquarie, in The First Australian Governors, Oxford University Press, 1971.
- 24. Sydney Gazette, 18 December, 1819
- 25. Cunningham, P, Journal of the Recovery, 1819., Admin 101/63 3208.
- 26. The Sydney Gazette, 12 February 1820
- 27. Colonial Secretary’s Papers, N.S.W., Reel 6007, Pages 144, 145.
- 28. HTG 4 December 1819
- 29. Barnard, Marjorie, Lachlan Macquarie, in The First Australian Governors, Oxford University Press, 1971.
- 30. http://www.cultureandrecreation.gov.au/articles/macarthurs/
- 31. http://www.bigmerino.com.au/?pageId=7550
- 32. Colonial Secretary’s Papers, N.S.W., Reel 6007, Page 261.
- 33. Sydney Gazette, January 22, 1820.
- 34. Colonial Secretary’s Papers,N.S.W., Reel 6007, Page 263.
- 35. Colonial Secretary’s Papers, N.S.W., Reel 6007, Page 264.
- 36. Colonial Secretary’s Papers, N.S.W., Reel 6007, Page 265.
- 37. CON 13/2/ p. 61., Archives Office of Tasmania.
- 38. The Hobart Town Gazette, 1 April 1820
- 39. re. Howes: The Hobart Town Gazette, 27 May 1820. re. Frazier: The Hobart Town Gazette, 3 June 1820
- 40. The Hobart Town Gazette, 1 April 1820
- 41. “Alphabetical List of Persons in V.D.L. to Whom Merino Rams have been distributed.” Historical Records of Australia, Series I, Volume III, Pages 684, 685.
- 42. The Hobart Town Gazette, 4 December 1819
- 43. The Hobart Town Gazette, 25 December 1819
- 44. Colonial Secretary’s Papers, N.S.W., Reel 6007. Page 260.
- 45. Colonial Secretary’s Papers, N.S.W., Reel 6007. Page 300.
- 46. The Hobart Town Gazette, 21 July 1821
- 47. Sen'night = a week: "se'nnight" is an abbreviation of seven nights, in the same way the word "fortnight" is an abbreviation of fourteen nights.
- 48. The Hobart Town Gazette, 27 January 1821
- 49. The Hobart Town Gazette, 28 July 1821
- 50. The Hobart Town Gazette, 16 January 1824
- 51. The Hobart Town Gazette, 22 December 1821
- 52. The Hobart Town Gazette, 4 May 1822
- 53. Reference No. 16, James Goodwin page.
- 54. The Hobart Town Gazette, 16 February 1822
- 55. The Hobart Town Courier, 19 March 1833
- 56. The Hobart Town Gazette, 4 May 1822
- 57. The Hobart Town Gazette, 30 August 1823
- 58. The Hobart Town Gazette, 25 May 1822
- 59. The Hobart Town Gazette, 31 August 1822
- 60. The Hobart Town Gazette, 17 June 1825
- 61. The Hobart Town Gazette, 5 August 1825
- 62. Colonial Times, 30 December 1825
- 63. The Hobart Town Gazette, 30 September 1826
- 64. Calder, J.E., The First Troubles of Governor Arthur – A Sketch of Old Times, Embodying the Bush Career of Matthew Brady. The Mercury, 26 August 1873
- 65. The Hobart Town Gazette, 26 March 1826
- 66. The Hobart Town Gazette, 11 February 1826
- 67. The Hobart Town Gazette, 10 March 1826
- 68. Canning,Gabriela – transcription to come.
- 69. Reference? Flock soon after William left Woodlands.
- 70. Courier, 17 May 1828
- 71. Colonial Times, 10 March 1826
- 72. Colonial Times, 22 December 1826
- 73. Colonial Times, 9 February 1827
- 74. Colonial Times, 23 February 1827
- 75. Colonial Times, 9 March 1827
- 76. CT 17 March 1827
- 77. HTC 10 November 1827
- 78. According to one of their descendants, Gabriela Canning, William was having financial difficulties with one Dudfield. Eliza may also have been advised to secure her future in this manner by her older sister Mary Ann, who had been gifted the Sorell Hotel by William James Cockerell five years earlier.
- 79. We thank Gabriela Canning for locating this document
- 80. AOT Baptism Registration RGD 1840/1252, RGD 1840/1253 and NS356/1/9
- 81. AOT Baptism Registration NS493/1/1
- 82. AOT Baptism Registration NS493/1/1
- 83. AOT Birth Registration RGD 1843/258
- 84. AOT Baptism Registration NS493/1/1
- 85. AOT Baptism Registration NS493/1/1
- 86. TA 1070 Richmond Lower Courts LC 455/1/1
- 87. Robert Edward Evans Obituary - Advocate 10 August 1936