PROSPECT FOR A MEMORIAL
Vignettes from the Life and Times of my First Fleet
ancestors, William Parish and Phebe Norton
TRAVESTIES, TRIALS & TRANSPORTATION
Parish, alias Potter (b.1751) may have been an unemployed seaman, but on
27 September 1784 he became a highwayman. William was tried by the London
Jury before Mr Recorder at Justice Hall in the Old Bailey at the sessions,
which began on Wednesday 20 October 1784.
fascinating to note that at this time the law had not yet devised a system
of Crown Prosecutors acting for the State and by that means preventing
vindictive prosecutions. In 1784 and beyond prosecution was very much a
was indicted for feloniously assaulting William Stent on the King’s
highway, on the 27th of September 1784, with a certain offensive weapon,
called a pistol, with intent to steal the monies of the said William Stent
WILLIAM STENT (Prosecutor) sworn.
I am a
shoemaker, I live at Pimlico.
27th of September, I was going up the Five Fields, Chelsea, I met the
prisoner about the midway, on the road; it is a bye road; he had a pistol,
as I think, on each side his waistcoat; I think he took it from within his
waistcoat, he said your life or your money, you buggerer, or I will blow
your bloody brains out; he put the pistol to my throat, I immediately put
my hands into my pocket, with intent to take my money out, but instead of
giving him the money, I hit him a large blow on his head, I cut at his
pistol, then he snapped it at me; I hit him in the belly, and then I laid
hold of the pistol, a scuffle ensued, he said he was very much hurt, and
he would resign to me; I immediately let him get upon his legs, and he ran
away directly, I jumped over the bank after him, and I never lost sight of
him till I got hold of him again; he said for God’s sake, give me a good
licking, and let me go; I got assistance, and took him to Bow-street. The
pistol is loaded with six slugs, and here is the charge in this paper.
EDWARD GOODERE sworn.
man and me were coming from Chelsea to London; we heard the prosecutor cry
out murder! We made over the fence and ran away to the fields, and found
the prosecutor and the prisoner struggling together. We secured the
ISRAEL JOHNSON sworn.
to the very same effect.
coming from Chelsea, I had just done selling my things, and I kicked a
pistol before me, and the prosecutor asked me what I had there, and I did
not chuse to shew him; I pulled it out to shew him, and then he swore I
was going to rob him. If you will please to put my trial off till
to-morrow morning, I can have gentlemen to my character.
to Johnson. What did the prosecutor tell you was the matter at the time? –
He said he demanded his money or his life.
William’s defence was a bit porous, and it is no surprise that his plea
for a character referee went as unheeded. This plea may or may not have
indicated that his was a first offence. However, it is interesting to note
that in modern times a judge calls for character references before passing
sentence. Mr Recorder had no such compunction. A guilty verdict of
felonious assault resulted promptly in a sentence of transportation for
served some of the sentence on shore in England. Then, on 19 March 1785,
aged 34, he was ordered to be transported to Africa. Early in April 1785
he was received onto Ceres hulk on the Thames, into the charge of Mr
Duncan Campbell, overseer of the convicts on that great river.
of course a matter of record that the scheme of transportation to Africa
was abandoned in favour of the establishment of a colony in NSW. And so
after nearly two years on the hulks, it came about that on 6 January 1787
William was delivered to Alexander to join 194 other male convicts under
the command of Duncan Sinclair, en route to Botany Bay.
Norton, alias Jones, alias Knight (b. 1761) had been for nine weeks an
“engaged servant” to James Milne, for whom she had earlier been working
for two months as a charwoman. In fact she was not only a servant but also
a housekeeper. When he returned home in the evening of 20 August 1786,
Milne found several household items missing.
was tried at the First Middlesex Jury before Mr Justice Heath, in the Old
Bailey at the Sessions which began on 25 October, 1786, She was indicted
for feloniously stealing one tablespoon, three teaspoons, one counterpane,
three sheets, a coat, a satin waistcoat, a table cloth, two check curtains
and a pair of leather gloves — total value 34.5 shillings— the property of
EDWARD SWAIN sworn.
I am a
servant to Thomas Page, a pawnbroker, No. 32, St. Martin’s-lane; I
perfectly remember the prisoner coming to our house; I have frequently
seen her at our house, pledging things; it was in August last; I cannot
mention the day; she pledged a coat, a counterpane, and a variety of other
articles; they are in my possession; and she said they were her own.
did she pledge them for? – I cannot say exactly the sum; I had no reason
to suspect her at that time; I have nothing more to say; I am very sure
she is the same person; she pledged them in the name of Mary Jones; she
told me she lived in Bedford-bury.
JAMES MILNE sworn.
the prisoner perfectly; she was my servant; she was nine weeks my engaged
servant; but prior to that she was two months an assistant as charwoman;
she was then in the name of Knight, but upon the examination before the
Magistrate, she said her name was Phebe Norton; I am a single man; and the
prisoner did not only assist as a servant, but as a house-keeper; I am out
six hours in the day, and while I am out the servants may turn the house
inside out; the prisoner ran away the 21st of August last; after she was
gone I missed the property from the different parts of the house; I found
these things again in the possession of Thomas Page that evening; there is
not a mark on any thing; they are such things as I lost.
you saw the prisoner did you charge her with taking these things? – Yes.
tell her it would be better for her? – No, I never spoke to her; when I
was before the Magistrate, the Magistrate asked her what she had to say
for herself, and her answer was, it is all right what my master has said.
Lord, my master has never paid me any wages, if my master had ever paid me
my wages, I meant to have redeemed them; here is the bill; my master sent
for the bill; he owed my being a servant very near ten weeks, and for
being a charwoman very near two months.
predecessor was indisposed, and she wanted an assistant to go through the
minutiae of the house; she sent me in a bill from Newgate for ten weeks
wages; but she had two pair of slippers from a shoemaker’s; and she asked
me for five shillings, which I gave her, to buy some things.
the prosecutor twelve shillings.
goods all come at once, or at two or three times pawning? – They did not
come at once; they were pawned at different times, from June to August
the very real inconvenience and injustice of not being paid for her work,
Phebe of the double alias was found guilty and sentenced to transportation
for seven years. In this case, there is some interest in the fact that the
prisoner had a position of trust followed by a clear motive for her
actions. In so many trials of the times we are left in ignorance of the
motivations of the convicted.
none of this saved her. And so it transpired that on the same day as
William boarded Alexander, Phebe, at 26, was delivered to Lady Penrhyn, to
join 100 other female convicts under the command of Master William Sever.
HEAD FIRST IN CAPE TOWN
not recorded whether Phebe was placed on the Thames hulks between October
1786 and January 1787, but it is romantic to suppose that she was, and
that she first met William on 6 January, or during a work detail or on
some other pursuit over the period before their joint embarkation on
Phillip’s fleet. There may subsequently have been opportunities for a
glance or an appraisal in Tenerife, in Rio de Janeiro or whenever the two
ships came within hailing distance, but an incident involving Phebe while
at anchorage at Capetown may well have attracted William’s attention.
reported by Surgeon Arthur Bowes Smyth, “Phebe Norton, A convict on board
us fell from the head (the toilet seat at the bow of the ship), into the
Sea, it was a remarkable calm day, therefore before she had time to go
down, two men jump’d overboard & saved her by hauling her into the pinnace
which was fasten’d at the stern.”
Penrhyn was the worst sailing ship in the Fleet, and Alexander was the
dirtiest and most disease ridden, but under the brilliant leadership of
the Commodore Captain Arthur Phillip they bore my ancestors safely to New
or not Phebe and William had met before, they almost certainly found each
other at Port Jackson on 6 February, when the female convicts were at last
disembarked to join the men ashore. An infamous night of revelry was
10 February brought the first church service attended by a mixed
congregation of men and women. The crew of Sirius attended, and the
Chaplain, the Reverend Richard Johnson, officiated the first three
baptisms and five marriages in the colony.
Wednesday 13 February was an auspicious day. Governor Phillip took the
Oath of Abjuration before Judge Advocate, David Collins, as well as the
Oath of Assurance. On this same day Phebe and William, along with six
other couples took the oath of allegiance to one another in the sacrament
of holy wedlock! William signed the marriage certificate as William
Potter, one at least of his chosen aliases. Phebe signed with a cross, her
name being written by Chaplains’s Clerk, Samuel Barnes.
witnesses were Elizabeth Needham and William Snallam. Elizabeth and
William were married four days later and William Potter (Parish) was a
witness. All wedding parties to that time had been convicts, but Elizabeth
upon emancipation and the death of Snallam was to become by 1824 a highly
enterprising and competent business woman in the colony. William and
Phebe had a harder course to row.
course convicts began to serve out their time, as measured from the date
of sentence, although the granting of emancipation was made difficult for
Phillip because records of trials had not accompanied him on the outward
1791 the Governor called together the colony’s emancipated convicts and
informed them that those who wished to become landed settlers would
receive every encouragement. Those who did not desire this were to “labour
for their own provisions”, and were told that no obstacle would be placed
in their way if they wished to return to England. The majority opted to
return, but of those who elected to stay the Governor chose nine
emancipatees who were granted land at Prospect on 18 July. Among the
number were those early adapters, William and Phebe.
land grants curved around Prospect Hill, where the soil was derived from
the weathered basalt cap and richer than the sandstone-derived soils of
the Cumberland Plain. William’s grant was Lot 43, 60 acres in total, fifty
for being married to Phebe and an extra ten for son Charles, born on 6
September, 1789. His rent was 1 shilling per year commencing after 10
eight neighbours were:
Butler, seaman (Scarborough) and Jane Forbes (Lady Juliana) farming in
partnership with George Lisk, watchmaker (Scarborough) and de facto Irish
convict, Rose Burke.
Castle, husbandman (Scarborough)
Griffiths, butcher (Alexander) and Elizabeth Hamilton (Mary Ann)
Herbert, seaman, (Charlotte) and Deborah Ellam (Prince of Wales), not out
of his time, initially.
Morley, silk dyer, (Friendship) and Mary Gosling (Lady Juliana)
Nichols, gardener (Scarborough)
Pugh, carpenter (Friendship) and Hannah Smith (Charlotte).
(now Parish again), along with his neighbours, was provided with a
hatchet, a tomahawk, two hoes, a spade and a shovel. Crosscut saws were
available on a share basis. He received grain to plant in the first year
and was promised two sows, which apparently were never delivered. He was
obliged to build his own house, but the family was fed and clothed from
the government store for 18 months. The practice of agriculture and
husbandry in the settlement was continuous from this time.
December 1791 Watkin Tench visited Prospect and wrote a report on progress
over the first six months. I am pleased to note that among his 12 peers at
that time, a group that included former weavers, a husbandmen, carpenters,
a watchmaker, a silk dyer, a gardener and a butcher, the seaman, William
Parish, at ‘Parish Farm’ had the most land under cultivation (23/4 acres).
However overall Tench was pretty unimpressed by the rough dwellings and
the state of the crops, while the farmers complained of water shortage and
theft by runaway convicts who plundered them incessantly.
original plan of land grants had included and area of Crown Bushland, or
driftways, separating each farm. These areas provided cover for large
groups of aboriginal warriors to congregate and cause alarm, if not
disturbance. The Governor eventually posted guards at the settlement while
he arranged for the driftways to be cleared.
Foremost among the aboriginal leaders was Pemulwuy, a resistance leader
and scourge of the colony of NSW as it spread inland from Sydney Cove. A
member of the Bidjigal tribe, whose territory stretched from the Botany
Bay southside to Bankstown, Pemulwuy’s war began in December 1790 when
aged about 30 he ambushed and speared Governor Phillip’s convict game
shooter John McEntire. He attacked Prospect Hill in 1794. In 1797 he led
the Eora people against the British at Parramatta. He was severely injured
and captured, but escaped after a few days to return to his people. He
continued to raise havoc until he was shot and killed in 1802 and his head
was taken to England. His death spelt the end of much of the fighting. In
the opinion of the then Governor King: “Altho’ a terrible pest to the
colony, he was a brave and independent character” and “an active, daring
leader” of his people.
result of the many initial hardships the total area of land sown at
Prospect was only 95.25 acres by October 1792.
A SON AND A SENTENCE
Years Day 1792, a second son, William, was born at Rose Hill (later
Parramatta). Eight days later, on 9 January, William senior was charged in
a Magistrates Court case before David Collins and the Reverend Richard
Johnson with “behaving insolently and with much abuse to Mr Thomas Arndell,
Assistant Surgeon at Parramatta, with threatening the Life of the said Mr
Thomas Arndell, and with Insolence and Abuse to Mr Thomas Clarke, the
Superintendent on Sunday 1st and Tuesday 3rd of the instant January, “
Arndell told the magistrates that the initial incident had taken place in
the Parramatta storehouse on 1 January (probably while Parish was
collecting his rations there). Arndell told Parish his wife, Phebe, should
come in to Parramatta to have their new baby christened. Parish replied
that she was very ill.
suggested that he visit her and if she was ill he might have her sent to
the hospital at Parramatta. Parish said that “she should not come to such
a lousy place”. On this and another occasions Parish became involved in
arguments with Arndell about rations he felt he and his wife were entitled
to. A second argument at the Parramatta dispensary also involved
Superintendent Thomas Clarke, who said he had beaten Parish with a stick,
claiming the former convict had been brandishing an axe shouting that he
was a free man and “if ever I catch you on my ground at Prospect Hill I’ll
kick you off of it!” – while promising to complain to Captain Nepean about
being struck by the superintendent. Parish admitted to the magistrates
that he had abused Dr Arndell but claimed he had only raised his axe to
ward off blows from Clarke’s stick, “When passion gets the better of me I
don’t know what I’m doing.” he said. Judge Advocate David Collins
sentenced him to receive 100 lashes “there not being any other Mode of
punishing a Person of his Description & of so properly checking that
spirit of Disobedience & want of Subordination which appears in his
already seen from his first trial that William had a pretty rough tongue,
but thank goodness he had no pistol this time!
William’s seven-year sentence had expired a few weeks before this charge.
The case illustrates the plight of recently emancipated convicts who
remained subject to strict discipline and limited civil rights in the
colony. His attempt to assert his new status as a free property holder
was met with a harsh response. The case was heard against a background of
increasing tension in the colony, with worsening food shortages and
malnutrition following the influx in 1791 of 2,000 convicts from the Third
Fleet. News was also spreading of the French Revolution and the stir
caused in Britain by the publication of the first part of Tom Paine’s
Rights of Man.
THIRD HEIR WITHOUT TITLE
January, 1794, a third son James Norton, my direct ancestor, was born at
Parramatta. By 1794 Prospect was considered the most fertile of the new
settlements. David Collins proudly reported that “Prospect Hill proved to
be most productive, some grounds there returned 30 bushels for one”.
William, Phebe and family pressed on, but in November 1795 they were
robbed by three runaway convicts who cleaned them out, the servant beaten,
goods taken and stock killed. The escapees were caught and hung. Debts
seem to have mounted. In 1798 William is listed as owing Trace 2 pounds 14
shillings plus 4 shillings costs and he was ordered to pay within 14 days.
By 1800 William had sold his 60 acres to John Nichols, who became a
successful landowner and gardener in the region. The family returned to
Sydney. William had not lasted long enough on the land to begin paying
A STREETSCAPE MEMORIAL
However the memory of William and Phebe’s occupation remains. In 2003,
after rezoning, a new housing suburb was created at Prospect Hill, on land
earlier dedicated to quarrying, a WWII US Army camp and a CSIRO Research
facility. It is named Pemulwuy (!), the accepted version of a name with
more spellings on record than the boulders on the Hill. The suburb
contains the Delphin subdivision of Nelsons Ridge, and the Stockland
subdivision of Lakewood. It rests across the site of Governor Phillip’s
1792 land grants.
Ridge was developed in a joint venture between Boral Limited and Delphin
Lend Lease. Delphin itself is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Lend Lease
Corporation. It was with this company that I worked for 9 years until
1979, among other roles as a director of Lend Lease Homes. Another curious
William’s land was square in shape, situated just west of the present
intersection of Greystanes Road and Old Prospect Road, the extension of
which is called Butu Wargun Drive. Part of the holding is now the public
open space of Driftway Reserve, and includes the children’s play area of
Nelson Park. If you take Watkin Tench Drive from Greystanes Road in
Nelsons Ridge and turn right into Driftway Drive, at the first roundabout
another right turn will bring you into Parish Street, and a few metres
down the street you will cross William Lane! William Parish (off stores)
would also be heartened to know that on his eastern boundary there is now
a substantial Woolworths development and a Community Centre. Furthermore,
a classy housing display village has been erected in Parish Street. Other
streets in Pemulwuy thus far opened up (in 2008), honour others of the
first thirteen 1791 landholders, John Silverthorne, Edward Pugh, William
Butler, John Nichols, Samuel Griffiths, George Lisk, and Joseph Morley,
But a Parish St appears nowhere else in the Greater Sydney region.
AN ECO-PARK MEMORIAL
Lakewood subdivision holds particular interest to me in its recognition of
William and Phebe. The subdivision, upon completion, will extend from the
M4 south to Butu Wargun Drive and from Greystanes Road west to Clunies
Ross Street. Girraween Creek runs north through the middle of Lakewood and
is approximately 1 km long. It contains two lakes, a small upstream
pondage, with a much larger storage immediately downstream. There is a
preserved bushland area (or riparian corridor) on either side of the Creek
which varies between 30m and 250m in width. This corridor will be
protected into the future, and will embrace a 1.6km Heritage Circuit Trail
to celebrate the historical and natural history of the Prospect Hill area.
The path is 80% complete in February 2008. The corridor covers the
original land grants to George Lisk, William Butler, John Nichols and of
course to William Parish, and one of a series of brass plaques along the
Heritage Trail recognises these pioneers.
3m-wide trail can be travelled by bicycle as well as on foot. The other
plaques along the way explain the role of the lakes in filtering the
runoff from the subdivisions, depict the aboriginal heritage and
archeology, explore the native vegetation, describe the quarrying and
railway activities of past times and highlight the bushland regeneration
and reconstruction. More than 350,000 native plants, struck from seed
collected in the area have been planted to a strict Vegetation Management
Plan. In fact the Plan has won an award for Environment from the
Australian Institute of Landscape Architects NSW in 2005.
Fundamental to the activity of the Fellowship, is the identification of
the last resting place of First Fleeters and recording of the sites by the
installation of a plaque. I am still hoping that one day we shall carry
out this service for William and Phebe. In the meantime I can take
enormous satisfaction in the fact that the community of Pemulwuy will
remember them and their peers at the point of their freedom and the
pinnacle of their ambition, in this sensitive, enduring and beautiful
BACK ON THE WINE DARK SEA
possible that William had left Lot 43 with sufficient funds from his sale
to Nichols to avoid becoming a common labourer. In the 1802 muster he and
Phebe are shown as still resident in Sydney.
William, being a seaman, and restless, did return to his earlier vocation
for a period, working his way back to England, without his family, in
1802. The ship is unknown, as there are simply no records of musters on
ships returning to England during this period.
appears in the company of someone who knew him quite well, (David Collins,
of the Oath of assurance and the Thomas Arndell Affair!), when he traveled
from England in company with that gentleman in 1803 to establish a
settlement at Port Phillip Bay.
board Calcutta with Collins, Captain Woodriff and the 308 male convicts
were two of the civil officers for the settlement, the Reverend Robert
Knopwood and the assistant surgeon William l’Anson. The other civil
officers for the settlement travelled on the expedition’s store ship,
Ocean, together with the free settlers and their families. The civil
officers with Captain Mertho included the Surgeon Matthew Bowden, Second
Assistant Surgeon William Hopley, Surveyor George Prideaux Harris, Deputy
Commissary Leonard Fosbrook, Mineralogist Adolarius William Henry
Humphrey, Superintendent and Agriculturist Thomas Clark, Superintendent
William Patterson, and two Overseers of Convicts, John Ingle and none
other than William Parish. It would appear that he was recommended by
Governor King in a letter to Collins, and Lord Hobart fixed his salary at
25 pounds per annum. Well, who better to supervise convicts on sea and
land than a man of William’s background, experience and vocabulary?
Calcutta and Ocean left Spithead on 24 April 1803 but stopped in at St
Helens on the following day. This delay, according to the convict Fawkner,
was due to the fair haired and petite twenty-three-year-old Hannah Powers,
who had convinced Collins and presumably Captain Woodriff to let her
retrieve her pet poodle and bring it on board. Hannah in fact became
Collins’ mistress, a move that provided her husband Mathew Powers with
freedoms and liberties not provided to other convicts. He was able to move
freely around the ship and was able to purchase stock whilst on route to
Port Phillip. Perhaps disturbed by this moral turpitude in high places,
the winds again shifted unfavourably and it wasn’t until 28 April that the
two ships departed the English Channel.
first port of call for the two ships was Santa Cruz, Teneriffe, where they
arrived on 16 May, and remained at anchor for four days before continuing
on. It had taken Calcutta and Ocean 22 days after leaving Spithead to
reach Teneriffe. The convicts were not allowed off the ship at any of the
ports of call, a situation which would not have made William’s job any
about midday on 9 June Calcutta crossed the Equator. However, it wasn’t
until the next day on 10 June that the ship’s company enjoyed the
entertainment of equatorial celebrations. The voyagers had survived just
44 days of a trip that would last 168 in total. William Parish, an old
hand, had crossed the Line for the third time!
29 1803 Calcutta arrived at Rio de Janeiro. The weather had been more
pleasant but after 40 days of sailing a port call was more than welcome.
The voyagers remained at the port for nearly three weeks while the boat
was re-supplied and made ready for the stormy weather ahead. Enchardos, a
small Island in the Bay about two miles from town, was leased for 1/- per
day. The convict wives according to Knopwood, and the ‘women’ according to
Lt. Tuckey, were landed on the Island to do the washing.
ships set sail from Rio on 20 July 1803 and that after just two days Ocean
lost sight of Calcutta in a gale and thereafter for the rest of the trip
they did not sight any vessel. Captain Woodriff had instructed Captain
Mertho that if the ships were separated Ocean should not land at the Cape
of Good Hope for fear of a hostile reception. For this reason they were
unable to call into this Port.
Calcutta encountered bad weather and gales for much of the trip but the
diaries and ship log mentioned also that they observed many whales. Their
next concern was the Cape of Good Hope and as Calcutta rounded the Cape on
12 August, they prepared all their guns for action but rather than meeting
with hostility at Simons Bay they received a welcome reception. The
following day they saluted the battery with 11 guns, which was returned
with an equal number.
departed the town on 23 August having completed their re-supply and
purchases of livestock and seed. The weather continued to be stormy. The
melancholy gloom that set in after their departure from the last point of
civilisation could only have been worsened with the punishment of the
convict, Thomas Fitzgerald. He was given 36 lashes on 10 September for
theft. Three privates were also punished with lashes for drunkenness,
misbehaviour and theft. HMS Calcutta sailed into Port Phillip Harbour on
Sunday 9 October 1803 two days after the anxiously waiting Ocean.
A CASE OF VANDEMANIA
had completed a second emigration, this time wielding not wearing chains.
However Port Phillip was not his destiny, He was to stay there only four
Nelson was under the command of Lieut. Simmons, with Jorgen Jorgenson as
first mate when she set sail from Port Phillip for the Derwent on 30
January 1804 with the free settlers aboard. Ocean set sail with her but
was soon left behind her carrying Overseers Ingle and Parish, 200
prisoners, their wives and children and a guard of 25 marines, Lieut.
Edward Lord, and the civil establishment. Altogether with the crew, the
number of people on board Ocean was close to 300. So overloaded was the
ship that one third of the convicts were rostered on the deck at all
times. Though Captain Mertho estimated that the voyage would take less
than a week it took 16 days due to ill-winds and bad weather. This
resulted in severe food shortages. The precooked food for the trip ran out
after only four days. There were no facilities to cook for the number of
people on board and so the convicts fared very poorly indeed. More
privation for William Parish!
expedition finally reached Frederick Henry Bay on 11 February 1804, but
the weather again was unfavourable for reaching up river and they were
forced to wait a further four days before joining Lady Nelson in Risdon
am on 16 February Lady Nelson fired an eleven-gun salute as Collins went
ashore to inspect the camp. Bowen, who had not expected Collins arrival,
was away at the time. He had taken some prisoners and a soldier to Sydney
Town to be tried for attempted theft, but there was also a suggestion that
he was seeking from Governor King, permission to rejoin the navy.
Bowen’s absence Lt Moore formally greeted Collins. After a quick appraisal
of the Risdon Cove settlement Collins was disappointed. Governor King’s
decision to send Bowen to establish a settlement on the Derwent was to
pre-empt any French intentions to settle Van Diemen’s Land. Bowen had
arrived at the end of winter on 11 September 1803 when the grassy
woodlands at Risdon had to twenty-three year old Bowen’s untrained eye
matched an Englishman’s ideal of parkland. By February there had been no
rain at Risdon for more than four months, the creek was dry and the
immediately gave instructions to Surveyor George Prideaux Harris to find a
more suitable site for his settlement to be named Hobart Town. The
surveyor, after only a very short investigation, reported back to Collins
that he had found a very promising site on a cove across the river. It had
a permanent stream and was located at the foot of ‘Table Mountain’ renamed
later Mount Wellington. Collins declared himself happy with the choice and
ordered that the tents, which had already been pitched at Risdon, be
removed and erected at Sullivan’s Cove on Monday 20 February 1804.
ancestor William Parish participated in his fifth “first” settlement in
New Holland — Botany Bay, Sydney Cove, Prospect, Port Phillip, and
Sullivan’s Cove, Hobart. It is doubtful if any individual, other than
David Collins himself shared this distinction. He had also travelled with
a young John Pascoe Fawkner, the ultimate founder of Melbourne, and as
convict overseer, had Fawkner’s father, also John, in his charge. William
had missed his sixth first settlement, William Paterson’s arrival at
George Town in 1804.
evidently found Hobart Town very much to his liking. And after all he had
spent 17 years with and around David Collins, and had travelled from
England and Port Phillip with Knopwood, and other men who were the key
office holders at Hobart. And he had a responsible job. It was time to
collect the family and emigrate from Sydney to Van Diemen’s Land.
was on Ocean when it left Hobart bound for Sydney on 9 August, 1804.
PHEBE COMES TO HOBART TOWN
six months William returned to Van Diemen’s Land and to Hobart to acquire
a dwelling, taking Phebe and his family with him on Sophia arriving on 5
February, 1805. This was the real beginning of my family’s association
Governor King also sent 26 female convicts with him, and appointed him
overseer at New Town, north of Hobart. Robert Knopwood records in his
diary that, on 26 February 1805, “At 11 by request of the Lt Govnr I went
to New Town where I examined Wm Parish etc. The Lt Gov came to the farm
with me.” They were in all probability visiting William to see how he was
faring in his new role. And it is further evidence that William was well
known to David Collins. William remained in this role at least until
January, 1806 William received a land grant of 70 acres on the eastern
shore of the Derwent, at the head of what is now known as Geilston Bay. It
was rectangular and intersected what is now known as Geilston Creek. His
neighbour to the west was Michael Mansfield. This time there is no plaque
or park to these pioneers, simply a tired water course emptying into the
Bay via a mess of boats. Upstream of the area are playing fields. In the
1940s the entire area was an apple orchard.
grant seems to be in return for his services as convict overseer. The rent
was 2 shillings per year commencing after five years. In October 1806
William is recorded as having his acreage under cultivation of wheat,
barley and garden, with one bull, three female sheep, one male goat and
two female goats. William, Phebe, one child (probably James who was only
12) and a convict were victualled by the Government.
July 1807 William is recorded as having five acres in wheat, two acres in
barley, two acres fallow and one-tenth of an acre in garden. He had two
cows, one bull calf, one cow calf, five ewes, three ewe lambs and one
female goat, William, his wife and child were still being victualled by
the Government. Things were not going badly, but they were about to get
LEMON AND BROWN
just two years occupancy on his land, in February 1808, he was once more
robbed, this time by the bushrangers Lemon and Brown. They even took his
boots. Richard Lemon and his cohorts, Irishmen, John Brown and Richard
Scanlon were violent outcasts. Their crimes included the murders of
three privates from the New South Wales Corps, John Curry, Robert
Grindelstone and James Daniels. Scanlon and Brown would often converse in
Gaelic, which Lemon couldn’t understand. He was so infuriated that one
day, while Brown was hunting, he shot Scanlon and hung his corpse by the
heels from a tree.
settlements at Port Dalrymple and Hobart were by 1808 in full dread of
Lemon and Brown. Lieutenant-Governor William Patterson, in the north,
offered a bounty of £50 for their capture. Lieutenant-Governor David
Collins’ general orders of 11 February asked the population of Hobart to
be ready to apprehend the outlaws, to not go into the woods alone and that
no boats, except government boats, were to cross the Derwent until Lemon
and Brown were captured or killed.
bushrangers were to meet a violent end. On 1 March 1808 emancipated
settlers Michael Mansfield, (William’s neighbour on the Derwent) James
Duff and John Jones (all of whom had travelled under William as convicts
on the voyage to Port Philip in 1803) overpowered them. Lemon resisted and
was shot dead. Brown was captured and forced to carry Lemon’s head to
Hobart where it was exhibited on a stake. Brown was then sent overland
under an armed escort, commanded by Lieutenant Breedon, to York Town on
the Tamar River, leaving on 4 March. Brown confessed to many of his crimes
including acts of barbarity against the aborigines. Mansfield, Jones and
Duff shared the £50 reward.
embargo on boat movements at the Derwent was lifted on 1 March 1808, and a
search party under Sergeant Brumby was recalled. Brown was sent to Sydney
on Porpoise, which arrived on 26 May 1808. He was tried on 30 May, found
guilty and sentenced to death by hanging, his body to be dissected and the
remains hung in chains on a small island in Sydney Cove. This occurred on
31 May 1808 after Brown repeatedly requested the spectators to beseech the
Divine Mercy on his behalf. These were indeed barbarous times!
his criminal ways, Richard Lemon is immortalised by various landmarks near
Oatlands in Tasmania, including Lemon Springs and Lemon Hill. His
silhouette in steel plate can be found high on a hill.
GIVING UP TO GEILS
March 1810, David Collins died suddenly. William had lost a mentor.
1811 Muster Phebe was shown alone in Hobart, but William most likely was
elsewhere in the colony.
farming life once again proved too much of a trial for the family and
after more than six years of ownership, on 27 July 1812 William reassigned
his 70 acres for an undisclosed sum to Andrew Geils. The transfer was
witnessed by John Clark, John Campbell and John Conliffe. This time he
had exceeded his rent-free time allocation, but only by a bare seven
had arrived in Sydney in July 1811 in charge of the guard in the convict
transport Providence. He brought with him his wife Mary, née Noble, and
six children. In February 1812 Macquarie had appointed him the third of a
series of commandants who administered the Hobart Town settlement after
the death of David Collins. Geils, despite a seesaw career and private
life in both Hobart and Sydney was for a time an aspirant to succeed Davey
as Lieutenant-Governor of Van Diemen’s Land. He held until 1818
substantial lands on the Derwent and of course the area of his holdings
(and that transferred to him by William) became known as Geilston Bay.
ROBBERY AND ASSAULT
September, 1812, having sold the holding at Geilston Bay, William was
living in a house in Hobart, probably again as a Convict Overseer, with
wife Phebe, sons James and Charles and a Charles Clark, who was a convict
labourer. A local sergeant recorded statements taken after a robbery by
three soldiers, Poney, Gorrie and Connors with transportee and bushranger,
James McCabe, which occurred on that night:
house, three quarters of a mile from Hobart Town, probably in Newtown) was
attacked between 9 and 10 o’clock at night on 25/9/1812. William Parish
saw Thomas Connor and Jos. Poney once before 25 Sept. Parish swears to
Thos Connors being one of those who broke into his home but cannot swear
to the persons of the other two soldiers.
Parish swears to the persons of the three robbers having been in the house
on the night of 25 Sept and robbing and assaulting her. Connor was the
only one of the three who struck her.
Parish swears to the person of Joseph Poney as one of the robbers who
attacked his father’s house on 25 Sept 1812.
Parish cannot identify any of the prisoners.
Clark cannot swear to the persons of the men who committed the robbery
clothes taken from Parish’s house were found in the barracks occupied by
Connors and Gorrie by Sergeant Toane.
lost three to four pints of blood during the attack. Bushranger McCabe
late boasted that he had “killed and slaughtered and beat him (William
Parish) with an old musket til he bent like an old iron hoop.” William in
fact sustained chest injuries.
Subsequently McCabe was captured by James Carrett and Thomas Tombs at
Oyster Bay along with associates John Townshend and Peter Geary.
the three desperados were placed on trial before the Court of Criminal
Jurisdiction in Sydney. Charles Clark appeared as a witness, as did Phebe,
who identified thirty-seven stolen muslin and chintz gowns, as well as
thirteen petticoats and twenty balls of cotton. McCabe, Townshend and
Geary were executed.
events may well have been the trigger for the return of William and Phebe
to a living in Sydney, as they were both domiciled there in 1814.
A DEATH ON THE DOORSTEP
Governor Hunter had ordered a fort to be built on the site of Windmill
Hill to defend the colony from rebellious convicts and possible French
attack. In 1804 work had begun on a citadel called Fort Phillip. The fort
was never fully completed and never fired a single shot in anger. The
eastern ramparts now remain and maps of the time show a row of housing
below these walls, probably along the park which itself is adjacent to the
Sydney Harbour Bridge approaches. It is possible that this was the site of
the home of Phebe and William in 1816, as the following Enquiry at the
Coroners Inquests on 13 August suggests:
Pleasant rose early to make bread, heard groans, saw man, asked him to go
home if he was drunk as it was light enough to see, told Sentinel at Fort
Philip – suggested he come and warm himself – identified him as the same
person because of his red cap.
Timon, private in the XX Regiment said between 12 and 2 am 13th inst.
Being on his post as sentinel of Fort St Philip – heard man groan – went
to see who it was – man lying on his side, clapping the ground, talking of
his mother and sister. Man never stirred again.
Phebe Parish – Free woman, Sworn deposes and saith that from between 9
o’clock in the evening on the 12th instant until 3 o’clock this morning
the 13th August she heard a continual noise near her home, but would not
open her door. About daylight this deponent opened her door and at about 6
or 8 yards from the door she saw a man lying. She went up to him and
looked at him, saw his eyes open, put her hand on him and found it cold.
Deponent then went to the Sentinel and said here is a dead man: but does
not know whether the deceased is the person she heard in the night or that
the deceased person was in the same state he now lays. Signed Phebe Parish
X. After 28 years in New Holland Phebe had not mastered her letters!
appears that William was not available to consult, comfort or confront the
drunk or dying man. He may have been elsewhere, or ill and incapacitated.
DEATHS IN SYDNEY
died just six months later, on 11 February, 1817. He was 66. His funeral
took place in St Philips Church, conducted by The Reverend William Cowper
and he was buried in the Old Sydney Burial Ground on 12 February 1817.
This burial ground was closed by Governor Macquarie in February 1820, and
was exhumed in 1869 to make way for the Sydney Town Hall.
construction of the Town Hall commenced, any remains that had not already
been relocated, were exhumed from Town Hall Cemetery and re-interred in
Rookwood, then known as Haslams Creek. Like so many other First Fleeters
buried there, neither his grave nor his headstone were ever identified.
died on 18 October 1820 also aged 66. Married as Potter, she was buried
as Parish, the funeral again being conducted by The Reverend William
was interred in the new burial ground, which had been consecrated on 27
January, 1820. This was the Sandhills Cemetery lying south of the
Brickfields from which it was separated by a valley known today as Belmore
Park and the Haymarket. But it was not to be her last resting place.
the cemetery area was needed for the construction of Central Railway
Station. The headstones and the remains of some 2,285 persons were moved
to another old cemetery on the shores of Botany Bay. This cemetery was
dedicated in 1888 as Bunnerong Cemetery but is now known as Botany
Cemetery. Phebe’s remains were re-interred there, as were those of many
other First Fleeters, such as James Squire, William Tyrell, Thomas Prior,
Mary Marshall, Frances Mintz (nee Davis), John Nicholls, Robert Watson,
Isaac Archer and Sarah Archer (nee Burdo).
time, the area containing the old graves became derelict. The inscriptions
were weathered away by the salt air and many of the stones, after falling
to the ground, were broken up and scattered. So, in 1976, the Botany
Cemetery Trust decided to create a Pioneer Memorial Park within the
precincts of the cemetery adjacent to Bunnerong Road. All the stones were
collected and moved. Many fragmented and illegible ones were discarded.
There were 746 stones in reasonable condition and these were erected in
uniform rows around a memorial block. The headstone of John Trace was the
only First Fleeter stone to survive.
William and Phebe, after so many adventures together, through a quirk of
fate found their bodily remains set apart, one at Rookwood via the Town
Hall, the centre of Sydney, and the other back on the shores of Botany
& Phebe had the following three children:
Withington, September 2009
Ann Audigé, Manon Ella Audigé, Kaye Frances Preece
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