WILLIAM BAKER and SUSANNAH HUFFNELL
Marine Corporal WILLIAM BAKER
b. 1761 sailed with the First Fleet aboard the Charlotte
with the 53rd (Portsmouth) Company. It is recorded
that the young corporal, two days after leaving Portsmouth on board the
Charlotte, accidentally shot himself in the foot when laying down his
loaded musket which he had just taken out of the arms chest. Surgeon
White recorded that when the shot struck his ankle it deflected and
had enough force to go through a harness cask full of beef, and killed
two geese stored behind it. Thanks to his excellent health Baker was
fit to return to duty within three months.
At Port Jackson William Baker was promoted to Sergeant
and attached to the Company of Watkin Tench and was then
appointed orderly sergeant to Governor Phillip, an administrative
office that relieved him of routine duties such as supervising the
landing of convicts or clearing trees and undergrowth for the building
of the settlement.
Immediately on arrival in Port Jackson, Baker took a
common-law wife from among the convicts, 25-year-old SUSANNAH
HUFFNELL, who had been sentenced to seven years transportation for
petty larceny. Their only child, Elizabeth, was born on 1
January 1789. However the
relationship was not a happy one and Baker refused to accompany his wife
and child when they were transferred on the Sirius to the remote
colonial outpost of Norfolk Island in March 1790.
Baker returned to England in 1792 with the second group
of returning Marines on the Atlantic, the ship on which Arthur
Phillip was travelling. On arrival in England, Baker declined
re-enlistment into the British Marines and returned to civilian life.
Within six months he received an appointment from the Navy
act as civilian superintendent and returned to Sydney on the Surprize
on 24th October 1794 having been appointed agent for the
convicts on that ship. On arrival he was then given the post of
Government Storekeeper at the Windsor settlement.
He was an enthusiastic fisherman and may have been the
first to catch Latropiscis purpurissatus, a common species along
the New South Wales coast and described as ‘growing to more than two
feet, coloured red to violet blue with red and yellow tail fin’, and
‘edible, but not greatly esteemed’. The fish, similar in appearance to a
pike, was named ‘Sergeant Baker’ in his honour in 1843.
Following his return to the Colony he was granted 40
acres at Toongabbie (Parramatta) in December 1794 and a 30 acres grant
at Mulgrave (Windsor) in June 1800 was also his.
On 26 August 1795, having
comfortably established himself as a farmer and government agent, Baker
married former convict Elizabeth
In 1798 Baker received a third official appointment, as
government storekeeper for the Hawkesbury region in addition to his
equivalent duties in Parramatta. Despite his past experience, Baker was
quickly found wanting in the management of the stores, specifically
those for farmers near the settlement of Windsor.
He unfairly organised
the storage of the large grain harvest in 1798 and Governor Hunter
was forced to step in.
In 1800 he also bought and began operating the Royal
Oak Hotel selling alcohol to convicts and settlers in Windsor.
While supporting by letter Governor Bligh’s
attempts to regulate liquor imports he publicly welcomed Bligh’s
overthrow and congratulated Marine officer George Johnson. As a
result of these events Governor Lachlan Macquarie dismissed him from all
his government posts in 1810.
The Royal Oak, described by a later historian as one of
‘the worst houses along the river’, was also ordered to be closed.
In 1814 William Baker appears in Hobart as the Government
Storekeeper and in November 1815 Crier of the deputy Judge advocates
court and finally as Crier of the supreme court of Hobart in May 1824.
This would be Baker’s last and longest occupation. His request for
increased salary in February 1836 was endorsed and showed it had been
accompanied by a statement of his appointment at the Hawkesbury in
1795. A £20 increase was granted. He held 30 acres at Argyle and 200
acres at Ulva, Van Diemen’s Land.
He died and was buried at Hobart on 14th
September 1836 - the age given as 75 confirmed him as the William Baker
who had been crier of the Supreme Court and thus the First Fleeter.
He is commemorated in the naming of Baker Street in
Windsor, adjacent to the former site of the Royal Oak Hotel and in
Baker’s Lagoon a body of water between the Hawkesbury River and
Richmond. His wife Elizabeth appears to have died in April 1824 at
b. 1765, was almost certainly the daughter of William and
Elizabeth Hufnell whose daughter Susannah was baptised in St. Peters
Church Worcester on 13th January 1765.
Sentenced to seven years transportation at Worcester on 2nd
October 1786 for theft of apparel, she was ordered to the hulk Dunkirk
on the Thames. She was 21 when she was received on the hulk on 26th
October 1786. Originally embarked on the Friendship in March
1787, she was transferred to the Lady Penrhyn in April, a
month before the First Fleet set sail.
Susannah’s first appearance in Port Jackson after her
arrival in 1788 was the baptism of her daughter Elizabeth on 1st
January 1789 - Corporal William Baker stated as the father.
The relationship was not a happy one and
Baker refused to accompany his wife and child when they were transferred
on the Sirius to the remote colonial outpost of Norfolk Island in
March 1790. She shared a sow with a James Clark, which
produced a litter of 3 making them independent for meat. Her daughter
Sarah was born 18 July 1795 and a daughter Frances in
1793. She was victualled on the Island, on and off till 1805.
In the muster of 1811, Susannah was listed as living in
NSW under the name Uffnell. In 1817 she was apparently married
to a settler.
No later information about her has been discovered but
her daughter Elizabeth, by William Baker, married Michael Hayes,
Michael was born in Wexford, Ireland, the son of a
small property owner. He was sentenced to transportation for life to New
South Wales after taking part in the 1798 rebellion, left Cork in the
Friendship in August 1799 and arrived in Sydney in February 1800. He
received a conditional pardon on 4 June 1803, but in September 1805 was
convicted of illicit distilling of spirits in his house at Farm Cove. He
was sentenced to be removed to Norfolk Island, and sailed in the
Sydney on 29 September 1805
He was prominent in establishing the Catholic Church in
However, he did not live long to enjoy the new status and
freedom of Roman Catholics in the colony, for on 7 September 1825 he was
found drowned off the Market Wharf. The Sydney Gazette described
him as having been once in affluent, respectable circumstances and
suggested that he had committed suicide. He was buried in the cemetery
at The Sandhills and later reburied at La Perouse.
The couple have descendants still living in NSW.
Contributed by #7985 Pat Smith and #7487 Judith Aubin of Hunter Valley
additional material provide by Joanne Horniman Peter Stone
the Australian Dictionary of Biography-Michael Hayes (1767-1825) by